Hawkeye tennis seniors prepped for final Big Ten Tournament

After six years of action, the Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell-Kareem Allaf era of Iowa tennis may be coming to a close.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa’s Kareem Allaf returns the ball during a men’s tennis meet between Iowa and No. 14 Illinois on Friday, April 9 at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes 5-2.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

This week, the Big Ten men’s and women’s tennis championships kick off in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Madison, Wisconsin, respectively.

The 2021 Big Ten Championships will serve as the last Hawkeye seniors Kareem Allaf and Elise van Heuevelen Treadwell ever play.

“We’re just going to go out there and compete,” Allaf said. “Enjoy possibly the last match or last few matches because you never really know.”

Since they arrived at the University of Iowa, both Allaf and Treadwell have become mainstays in the Hawkeye men’s and women’s tennis programs.

Allaf is currently playing his sixth season of collegiate tennis at Iowa. He redshirted during his freshman season and has taken advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted all its spring athletes because of COVID-19 this season.

Van Heuvelen Treadwell is nearing the end of her fifth year at Iowa. Like Allaf, she also elected to use the extra year of the eligibility the NCAA granted all its spring sports athletes.

Allaf and van Heuvelen Treadwell both came to the UI from international locales.

Allaf is from Dubai, UAE, and van Heuvelen Treadwell is from East Sussex, England.

The two Hawkeyes have also competed in the No. 1 lineup spots on the men’s and women’s tennis teams for most of their careers, and both of them boast career singles win percentages over 60.

“We’re actually in a lot of classes together right now in graduate school, which is different because we’ve never been in class together,” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “So that’s kind of a unique situation too.”

RELATED: Point/Counterpoint | Why has Iowa men’s tennis struggled in 2020-21?

Allaf is the Iowa men’s tennis program’s all-time leader in combined singles and doubles wins, and van Heuvelen Treadwell ranks third in Iowa women’s tennis history in combined singles and doubles wins.

Allaf has never played below the No. 4 spot in the Iowa men’s tennis team’s lineup at any point during his long career. Excluding 2019, Allaf has boasted a winning singles record in each of his six seasons at Iowa.

“Considering where I have played in the lineup, my singles ranking, my overall doubles ranking, and who I have had to play … I would say, yes, I am,” Allaf said, responding to a question asking if he was the greatest Iowa men’s tennis player of all time. “That’s my case. I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but the numbers don’t lie.”

When the 2020 season was cut short because of COVID-19, both Allaf and van Heuvelen Treadwell were on historic runs. Van Heuvelen Treadwell was 10-1 in singles, and Allaf was 11-2 with a No. 51 national ranking when the 2020 season ended prematurely.

Van Heuvelen Treadwell and Allaf both earned All-Big Ten honors and received Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region Senior Player of the Year awards in 2020.

Allaf has struggled throughout the 2021 season, posting 7-7 singles and 7-10 doubles records.

Unlike Allaf, van Heuvelen Treadwell has thrived. She’s currently 14-2 in conference matches this season and ranks 105th in the ITA’s singles rankings.

Van Heuvelen Treadwell has, however, competed in the No. 2 spot instead of the No. 1 spot for Iowa women’s tennis this year, as freshman Alexa Noel has quickly risen to the top of the Hawkeyes’ lineup, surpassing van Heuvelen Treadwell.

Noel is 22-0 this season.

“I’m just trying to stay up there with [Noel] and both lead from the top here,” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “It’s not just on one person or two people to get the job done. We need four singles wins or a doubles win and three singles wins.”

This week, the Van Heuvelen Treadwell-Allaf era of Iowa tennis could end, barring an NCAA tournament berth by either team.

Both the NCAA men’s and women’s tennis tournaments feature 64-team fields. Iowa men’s tennis isn’t currently ranked inside the ITA’s top 64. The Hawkeye women, however, are positioned at No. 41 in the ITA’s most up-to-date rankings.