Iowa’s men’s tennis seniors to use extra year of NCAA eligibility

Kareem Allaf and Jason Kerst will graduate this spring but will be back with the Hawkeye tennis team next season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Kareem Allaf celebrates a point during a men’s tennis match between Iowa and Western Michigan at the HTRC on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 4-3.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Iowa men’s tennis’ senior class was small but mighty.

The eight-man team had two seniors on its roster: redshirt senior Kareem Allaf and Jason Kerst. The two elder statesmen made their presence felt on and off the court. They were important pieces of a group that was arguably the best men’s tennis team in Iowa history, finishing the season ranked 20th nationally with a record of 12-2.

That’s why it was so important when both of them made the decision to return for another year.

Spring-sport athletes were granted another year of NCAA eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Allaf and Kerst will be back in Black and Gold next season.

Allaf — who is originally from Dubai — was the Hawkeyes’ best singles player this season.

He played 13 of his 14 matches on the No. 1 singles court and competed to a record of 11-2 with one match unfinished. His steady success earned him a spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles rankings. He was in the top 60 in the country, coming in at 51st when the season ended.

His plan, if this season had gone normally, was to turn professional immediately after his last collegiate match.

RELATED: COVID halts Iowa men’s tennis’ successful season

“I was going to go pro,” Allaf said. “But now that this buffer’s come, I’ll join Iowa again in the spring and play some pro tournaments in the fall and see what happens by the end of the season next year.”

On the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour, a player is allowed to compete as an amateur, which means that they can play in the tournament without taking all of the prize money that they earn. However, an amateur is allowed to take enough prize money to cover all of their expenses for that tournament. The money can be used for transportation, food, hotels, and racquet maintenance, among other things.

Allaf, who has a world ranking of 1,261, will also be earning a business certificate from Iowa next spring while he plays for the team.

Kerst will also return to Iowa next year for a fifth year as a Hawkeye and is looking forward to picking up where he left off. Playing the majority of his matches on the No. 5 singles court, Kerst’s season was highlighted by a match clinching win over Timo Zgraggen of VCU in three sets, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6.

The Ann-Arbor, Michigan, native is excited to get an opportunity next year to rekindle the bond that this year’s team shared.

“Everyone was just so close-knit,” Kerst said. “It was a really cool brotherhood that we had this year, and so that made it, honestly, extra disappointing when everything got cancelled and kind of tossed aside. But to think that it could be a similar, if not the exact same group next year is super encouraging.

“Not only was our team dynamic great but our on-court results were awesome this year. We’re excited to get back at it next year, continue that awesome culture and hoping that translates into some more victories on the court.”

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