Unique leadership of Allaf, Davies drive Hawkeye tennis

Senior Kareem Allaf and junior Will Davies are leaders for the Iowa men’s tennis team, and they each lead in their own distinctive way.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Will Davies hits a forehand during a men’s tennis match between Iowa and Texas Tech at the HTRC on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The Red Raiders defeated the Hawkeyes, 4-3.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

During the third and final set of Iowa senior Jason Kerst’s match-clinching win over VCU’s Timo Zgraggen on Feb. 29, strange sounds could be heard inside the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center.

Seven Hawkeyes watching Kerst’s singles match began to chant or sing the tune of an instrumental portion of Frank Sinatra’s hit song “I Love You Baby,” after Kerst won a point. The team repeated this multiple times throughout the set.

Leading the unique vocal performance was none other than Will Davies.

Davies — a junior from Norwich, England — has been a vocal leader for the team this spring, both when he’s playing matches and rooting on teammates.

“I’m always an energetic, positive guy,” Davies said. “Bringing a good energy to the court is a massive thing, especially in a team environment. I try and pick everyone up, especially when they’re down, and I think that helps a lot.”

Davies doesn’t just encourage others to play well; he is playing some of the best tennis of his career. Since Jan. 18, Davies hasn’t dropped a match, winning ten-straight contests.

In doubles competition, Davies has teamed up with a fellow Englishman, sophomore Oliver Okonkwo. The duo has proved to be Iowa’s best doubles team.

The pair has won its last two matches that have been played to the end. The combo from across the pond is ranked 12th in the nation as of Tuesday’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

While Davies was singing through Kerst’s match, redshirt senior Kareem Allaf was busy winning his match. Allaf made quick work of Lleyton Cronje, 6-2 and 6-1.

Allaf — a native to Dubai — has quietly provided guidance for the Hawkeyes with his workman-like approach to the game and stellar play.

“I try and focus on myself rather than keep looking around,” Allaf said. “Everyone contributes a point on the board, so if I’m not focused on my match and focused on other’s matches, I’m not going to be able to do as well.”

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Allaf’s no-nonsense approach has worked well for him during the spring season. He has won his last eight matches, six of which came in straight sets. An 11-1 overall singles record has propelled Allaf to a national ranking of 51.

Allaf attributes his success to his preparation.

“One of the main reasons I’m doing well is focusing on recovering after practice, preparing before practice, eating well, make sure I go to bed early,” Allaf said. “These are things that have helped me build a routine, helping me execute what I have to do on the match and not stress out about it.”

Head coach Ross Wilson appreciates both Davies’ and Allaf’s leadership.

“All great teams have leaders that lead in different ways,” Wilson said. “Kareem’s doing all the little things off the court really well. On court he gets excited, but he’s definitely not the rah-rah guy that Will is. I think with Will, for him to play his best tennis, I think that’s how he needs to be out there on the court; he enjoys it. And he’s definitely the emotional leader on our team. Those guys both lead in different ways, but we need them to do that for us to be a really, really successful team.”

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