Iowa men’s tennis notches first win of the season against Indiana

The 5-2 victory lengthened Iowa’s home winning-streak to 11 matches.


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

Junior Will Davies has now secured the match-winning point in two straight men’s tennis victories. The first was against Cornell, and the second was Friday afternoon against Indiana.

Those matches came 348 days apart.

Davies defeated Cornell’s Lev Kazakov to clinch the Hawkeyes’ 4-3 win over the Bears on March 8, 2020, and beat Vikash Singh of Indiana on Friday to seal the Hawkeyes victory against Indiana.

The 5-2 Iowa victory in the Hawkeyes’ home-opener and both teams’ first conference match of the year moves Iowa to 1-2 (1-0) through the first three matches of the season.

The 2021 season is the final season of the program after the university announced in August that it would be cutting men’s tennis at the end of the academic year because of financial problems caused by COVID-19.

Following two shutout road losses to Virginia and Middle Tennessee State at the ITA Kickoff in Columbus, Ohio, Iowa continued its home-winning streak Friday, now tallying 11 straight wins at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.

“It feels amazing to be back playing at home,” senior Jason Kerst said. “Especially after it’s been months just training here. You can’t replicate the match scenario. For me personally, I know Kareem [Allaf] is in the same boat, thinking, when we got the news 11 months ago, thinking that Cornell was our last match in this building. It really feels awesome to be back in here and to open up at home in the conference with a win over a team we’ve had some tight ones in the past with. It’s a special day for us.”

Those tight ones in the past included 11 Indiana wins in the last 12 meetings with Iowa defeating Indiana at the 2016 Big Ten Tournament.

After being blanked by their first two opponents this spring, the Hawkeyes put their first point on the board after the doubles matches.

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First, the pair of Allaf and Nikita Snezhko beat Indiana’s team of Carson Haskins and Ilya Tiraspolsky then Iowa’s best duo, Will Davies and Oliver Okonkwo — ranked 17th nationally —won their match with Bennett Crane and Michael Andre to secure the point.

“The doubles point is key,” Iowa head coach Ross Wilson said. “That’s gonna be key for us the whole year. If we can get up 1-0, especially at home.  I think we’re a really tough team to beat — especially when you’ve got someone like Kareem [Allaf], who is probably one of the top 20 best players in college tennis playing for you.”

Allaf didn’t disappoint in Friday’s singles session. The senior, ranked 39th nationally ahead of the dual with Indiana, made quick work of Indiana’s Crane who is ranked 48th in the country, 6-2, 6-3.

Up 2-0, Iowa needed to win just two of the five remaining singles matches and it did so, counting a dominant performance from Joe Tyler who beat Haskins 6-0, 6-1, and Davies’ straight-set win sealed the match.

Davies started out hot after he and Okonkwo continued their doubles success but the junior from Norwich, England, found himself losing his lead in the second set of his singles match. The Hawkeye mainstay was able to regain his composure late in the second set and close out his opponent.

“I always keep an eye on the scoreboard for some stupid reason,” Davies said. “It’s the first home match of the year so there were always going to be a few nerves. It was just important to keep calm, keep focused, and keep trying to play my game. Let the result take care of itself.”

Iowa will be back at the HTRC Sunday as it looks to keep their home and Big Ten winning streaks intact when it welcomes Purdue to Iowa City.

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