By BAILEY TURNER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa men’s tennis junior Kareem Allaf won six straight singles matches in four days, including two against ranked opponents, to claim the ITA Central Regional singles championship Oct. 18-21 on the campus of the University of Tulsa.
Allaf became the third Hawkeye to accomplish the feat, joining Bryan Crowley (1994) and Tyler Cleveland (1999). Allaf is the first player in program history to win the Central Regional title.
“This is a great win for Kareem personally and our program as a whole because he has improved so much over his time at Iowa,” said Mellecker Family Head Men’s Tennis Coach Ross Wilson. “As we continue to do the right things day-in and day-out, we are beginning to get the long term results.
“Kareem has focused on being professional in all aspects of his day, which has translated into his tennis game and been the biggest difference-maker this fall.”
Half of Allaf’s six victories came in three sets, including the final two matches against Wichita State’s Murkel Dellien in the semifinals (7-6(3), 1-6, 6-2) and 39th ranked Majed Kilani of Tulsa in the championship match (7-5, 2-6, 6-3).
“I went to the sideline and met with the coaches when I was down, 2-1, in the third set,” said Allaf. “They told me to give 25 more minutes of full energy and pump it up. It wasn’t the tennis at the end of the match, but who was more mentally there at the end. I gave as much energy as I could and I was able to break through and run away with the win.”
“Kareem dug deep after the second set and found another level of energy,” Wilson said. “It was a busy weekend with many high intensity moments and he was mentally tough.”
By virtue of winning the regional title, Allaf earned an invitation to the ITA Oracle National Fall Championships, from Nov. 7-11, in Surprise, Arizona.
“It finally did sink in, but there’s a lot things I can do to get better,” Allaf said. “Going to this tournament, everyone is going to be very good, they’re top 60 players and some of the best in the country. For me, to operate at the same level as I did in the semifinals and finals, should let me play more consistently. Hopefully I can find a way to end the fall season on a good note and roll it over to the spring.”
The Hawkeyes return to action Oct. 26 at the Big Ten Indoor Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
PATH TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Round of 64: Kareem Allaf def. Marino Alpeza (Minnesota): 5-7, 6-4, 6-3
Round of 32: Allaf def. Orel Ovil (Wichita State): 6-3, 6-1
Round of 16: Allaf def. Oliver Okonkwo (Iowa): 6-2, 6-4
Quarterfinals: Allaf def. No. 45 Stefan Milicevic (Minnesota): 6-3, 7-6(4)
Semifinals: Allaf def. Murkel Dellien (Wichita State): 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-2
Championship: Allaf def. No. 39 Majed Kilani (Tulsa): 7-5, 2-6, 6-3