Joe Tyler aiming for big spring season for Iowa men’s tennis

The junior is one of the top players on a very well-rounded Iowa squad.


Emily Wangen

Iowa's Joe Tyler eyes the ball during a match against Wichita State University on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. The Hawkeyes defeated the Shockers, 4-2.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

The Hawkeye men’s tennis team had a historic 2020 season on several levels. The team finished the season ranked 20th in the nation – good for a school record. However, the Hawkeyes were also sent home early because the rest of the season was canceled in March because of COVID-19.

Junior Joe Tyler had an 8-4 doubles record and a 6-6 singles record with a win in his only Big Ten matchup before the season came to a swift end. He also had a career-high, 8-match win streak for Iowa from the end of the fall through the first four matches of that spring season.

“I got off to a fine start in the spring season and then it went down a bit before everything got canceled,” Tyler said.

The Iowa tennis team is looking to follow up on its historic season with an even better spring in 2021. They are a very well-rounded group led by first-team All-Big Ten and ITA Central Region Senior of the Year Kareem Allaf and second-team All-Big Ten redshirt junior Will Davies.

However, the Hawkeyes have many players, including Oliver Okonkwo and a strong group of incoming freshmen, that can play anywhere from the No. 1 spot to the No. 4 spot in the lineup and succeed in those roles. Head coach Ross Wilson said that Tyler is no exception.

“He is one of those guys when you are looking at where guys are going to play in the lineup who is a great guy to have because he can play anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 and 4 and win you a lot of matches,” said Wilson.

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Tyler has always been “one of those guys” for the Hawkeyes. Since coming in 2018 as a freshman from Corby, England, he has racked up 32 dual singles wins and 33 dual doubles wins with only six matches below the No. 4 spot in the lineup.

At 6-foot-4-inches, Tyler attacks with a big serve and an aggressive game at the net to steal points quickly and overwhelm opponents.

“Keeping the points short is key for me because I’m a big guy, and I’m not the most athletic, so I’m not going to try to stay out there for three hours if I don’t have to,” the junior said. “It’s pretty basic tall man tennis but it works for me, and I will definitely keep doing it.”

Coming from another country is an adjustment for any student athlete, but Tyler said having other guys from the U.K. around him, including long-time friend and doubles partner Will Davies, made the transition a lot easier.

Their chemistry has been on full display throughout Tyler’s career, as he finished second in doubles at the 2019 Big Ten indoor championships with fellow countryman, Oliver Okonkwo.

Wilson explained his coaching strategy for the Brits.

“In some regards, maybe Joe has gotten the short end of the stick in doubles because he and Will were such a dominant pair in juniors,” he said. “But I needed to split them up as freshmen and put them with different people, so we had more of a balanced lineup.”

After finishing 16-13 in singles and 14-8 in doubles in the spring of 2018, Tyler’s freshman year is the best statistical year of his career so far. After the hot start, he’s had a bumpy sophomore year where he finished with a losing record in singles and an 11-11 doubles record, and a shortened junior year.

“When you’re a freshman, you don’t really know the teams and you don’t have a ton of expectations, so you go in and just play and maybe play a little bit looser,” the coach said. “I think he put a little bit too much expectation on himself, but I think last year he was starting to get it.”

While the U.K. native’s first season might have his best college numbers to date, Tyler has no intention of letting them remain that way.

“I want to get off to a really good start and work my way through No. 2 or 3 and move my way up to potentially No. 1,” Tyler said. “I want to start strong and continue that run.”

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