Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By BAILEY TURNER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Last year the University of Iowa men’s tennis team was invited to participate in the ITA Kickoff Event for just the second time in program history and it defeated Texas Tech on its home court.
The Hawkeyes, who qualified for the prominent event for the second time in as many years, will look to repeat history in 2018 when they head south to take on the fourth-ranked Georgia on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) in Athens.
Sunday will be the first-ever meeting between Iowa and Georgia. The Hawkeyes will then face either Arkansas or Memphis on Monday.
“The guys can’t wait to compete in the ITA Kickoff again after our success last year,” said Iowa head coach Ross Wilson. “Qualifying for the second year in a row shows the gradual progression we are making on a national stage.”
Iowa’s early season lineup has been comprised of three freshmen: Joe Tyler, Piotr Smietana, and Will Davies. Smietana has steady improved his game since first arriving on campus last summer.
It was not easy for Smietana, a three-time Polish National Champion, won only one of his first seven singles matches in the fall.
“Adapting to a new environment from home was difficult,” said Smietana. “I had to learn how to mix and match school with tennis more so than I ever had to before. I had not played in any tournaments in over a year because I had to pass the SAT, TOEFL, and my Polish maturity certificate before I was able to focus on tennis.”
After the slow start to his collegiate career, Smietana showed resiliency and grit, going 5-2 in the final competition of the fall at the Big Ten Indoor Singles and Doubles Championships in November.
Smietana teamed up with classmate Davies to defeat a duo from Northwestern, 8-3, in the opening round of the Big Ten’s and with that came confidence. The pair rattled off three wins to advance to the finals. That experience will benefit both newcomers moving forward.
“Playing with Will was one of the best experiences of my life,” Smietana said. “We get along great. We think alike so that made our game so strong and we bonded to set us up for the future.”
The Hawkeyes opened their team competitive season last weekend against Marquette and Western Michigan. Smietana and Davies teamed up to blank the No. 2 squad from Marquette, 6-0. Smietana also won his first singles match, 6-3, 6-4, over Luis Heredia Gomez.
“I’ve learned that I need to work on my consistency and Coach Wilson has helped me with that,” said Smietana. “I need to be more of a consistent player.”
Fans can follow the team’s progress at the ITA Kickoff Event via a live stream and live stats by clicking the following link: http://bit.ly/2ruf5AT.