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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s tennis team is off to its best start in five seasons. The Hawkeyes won all five of its matches in January.
Iowa returns five starters from last year’s squad that won the most home matches in school history. Kareem Allaf had a stellar fall campaign and the junior looks to carry that forward to this spring.
“Kareem had a lot of momentum coming into the season,” said Mellecker Family Head Men’s Tennis Coach Ross Wilson. “He played well in our pro event, training back home, and obviously played well at regionals and fall nationals. Over the break, he has kept up the intensity with his training and is playing well again.”
Winning the doubles point was key to the team’s success last year. Iowa has continued that success in the early stages of 2019. Senior Jonas Larsen and Allaf won all five doubles matches on court one in January.
“Jonas and Kareem have been playing together for three years and playing No. 1 doubles for the last two years,” Wilson said. “If you can beat the other team’s best duo, you will win a lot of doubles points. They have grasped the basics of doubles, making first serves, returns, putting volleys away at the net and being in the right positions. They’ve grown as doubles players and as a team. Hopefully they can keep putting wins on the board for us at No. 1.”
Sophomore Will Davies, sophomore Piotr Smietana, and Larsen were a combined 13-0 in singles competition in January. Allaf has been steady on Court 1, sophomore Joe Tyler has seen the most action on Court 2, and freshman Oliver Okonkwo has registered wins in the middle of the lineup.
“I have a lot more belief in my game and it has allowed me to deliver on the match court,” Davies said. “We train hard all week. It’s about being able to transfer what we do every day to when we play the matches. It’s easy to play when the coaches have a lot of confidence in your game.”
Iowa has outscored opponents 29-6 in five duals with opportunities against Miami (Feb. 8) and Utah (Feb. 10) at the HTRC in early February.
“Miami and Utah both went to the NCAA Tournament last year and were both top-40 in the country,” said Wilson. “These are the types of matches you need to win to make the case for the tournament. The fact that we get to play them on our home courts is a big advantage for us. It’s going to be key for us to go over video with the guys of our first five matches in singles and doubles and make adjustments.”