4867 miles

Iowa+tennis+player+Piotr+Smietana+volleys+the+ball+during+a+match+against+Cornell+University+on+Friday%2C+Mar.+2%2C+2018.+Smietana+lost+his+match+7-6+%287-4%29%2C+2-6%2C+6-4+and+the+Big+Red+defeated+the+Hawkeyes+4-3.+%28David+Harmantas%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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4867 miles

Iowa tennis player Piotr Smietana volleys the ball during a match against Cornell University on Friday, Mar. 2, 2018. Smietana lost his match 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4 and the Big Red defeated the Hawkeyes 4-3. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa tennis player Piotr Smietana volleys the ball during a match against Cornell University on Friday, Mar. 2, 2018. Smietana lost his match 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4 and the Big Red defeated the Hawkeyes 4-3. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

Iowa tennis player Piotr Smietana volleys the ball during a match against Cornell University on Friday, Mar. 2, 2018. Smietana lost his match 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4 and the Big Red defeated the Hawkeyes 4-3. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

Iowa tennis player Piotr Smietana volleys the ball during a match against Cornell University on Friday, Mar. 2, 2018. Smietana lost his match 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4 and the Big Red defeated the Hawkeyes 4-3. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Lauren Jimmerson, [email protected]

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Four thousand, eight hundred sixty-seven miles. That’s the distance Iowa men’s tennis player Piotr Smietana traveled to chase his dream as a professional tennis player.

Before becoming a Hawkeye, Smietana easily carved up the junior tennis field, winning three Polish National Championships, two international singles tournament titles, four international doubles tournament titles, and a bronze at the 2016 Polish Senior Championships.

But while he had little to no problems with his competition on the court, the Iowa freshman’s biggest challenge was his transition to the college game.

“It was really hard for me,” Smietana said. “I had to make a lot of adjustments. Time management was the first one … the second key was to find a common ground with Ross [coach Wilson] … and the last thing [was] the team.”

The fall season was rocky for Smietana. The freshman lost numerous close matches but also learned about the college-tennis environment.

“Here, it’s about energy,” he said.

Taking that energy into consideration, Smietana honed in on a new competitive mindset, dug down while fighting, and made the most in big moments.

Rounding out October with a 3-7 record, Smietana and head coach Ross Wilson focused their efforts on his offense.

“My play style is pretty much the same,” he said. “I’m really good from the baseline … boys sometimes call me the Great Wall of China.”

Smietana’s strong offense pairs well with doubles partner Will Davies. After propelling itself into the rankings at No. 51, the duo will try to continue its 10-match winning streak.

Smietana attributes his success with Davies to their cohesiveness — both Hawkeyes are friends off the court.

With the support of Wilson and Davies, the Krakow, Poland, native feels right at home in Iowa City.

“Everything is kind of great … Iowa is going to provide you with everything you need to get better,” he said. “You just have to wake up every day, work hard … there isn’t a thing I can complain about.”

Without complaints, Smietana noted the adversities his team endures on the road.

Traveling between venues brings different referees, different climates, and possible jet lag, but regardless, Smietana doesn’t make excuses. To him, it’s about facing problems and becoming a man.

But sometimes, facing problems is difficult, being so far from home.

“I’m really close with my family,” Smietana said. “It kind of hurts me that I am not going back for the summer, but as I said, you [have to] be a man, you have to get better. You have to sort your priorities, and right now my priority is tennis.”

The young athlete plans to that importance of tennis throughout the season and college. Enthusiastic about the Hawkeyes hosting the Big Ten Men’s Tennis tournament in April, Smietana aims to use his playing time toward advancing in his career.

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