Iowa recruit Jessica Matthews to bring confidence and aggressiveness to Iowa City

The 2023 commit from Hertfordshire, England, has represented her country on the world stage.


Contributed photo of Jessica Matthews.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Playing on the big stage has become almost routine for Iowa women’s tennis recruit Jessica Matthews.

Not only has Matthews represented her country in international tournaments, but she also performed in front of the camera during the filming of the upcoming Amazon Prime TV series “15-Love.”

Matthews signed a national letter of intent on Dec. 19, 2022, to play tennis for Iowa. Before her commitment to the Hawkeyes, the Hertfordshire, England, native competed in the main draw of the 2022 Wimbledon Junior Grand Slam, playing on the same grass courts as the professionals at the All-England Club.

“When I was young, I would be so excited just when it’s that time of year just to watch [Wimbledon] on TV,” Matthews said. “And then some of the times I got some tickets to watch in person. It was just such a memorable experience. I remember every time I went … actually playing it was completely mind-blowing.”

Matthews earned a bronze medal in the World School Championships for Team England in Italy in June 2019. In May 2022, Matthews won the junior doubles International Tennis Federation title in Wrexham, Great Britain.

“It’s just amazing, especially when it’s playing the country which the tournament’s in,” Matthews said. “Everyone’s supporting you, everybody’s wearing the flag, and they’ve got face paint of the flag. Just the support in general is amazing. I mean, for football players it’s amazing, but for British players especially, it’s just another whole atmosphere.”

Matthews has also assumed leadership roles during her playing career, including captain of her girls’ tennis school and the Independent Schools Tennis Association.

“I’m quite good at looking at how people respond to certain situations and then acting on it,” Matthews said. “So, I had some people on my team before who were quite shy, who I kind of helped encourage them to be more supportive of the team and loud. Just looking at how to include everyone equally to make sure everyone’s together as a team, not just like the loud people together.”

Matthews, who said she took a drama class in high school, was approached by former tennis player Naomi Cavaday, who asked if she would like to be featured in the upcoming TV series, “15-Love.” During the filming, Matthews said camera crews took shots of her playing tennis. During the editing process, the main actress’s face was imposed on Matthews’ body.

“It was really cool technology,” Matthews said. “It would look like it would be them, but it was actually me because the main actress couldn’t actually play tennis, so they used me.”

While filming the show, Matthews was told not to look at the giant camera recording her. Instead of naturally playing, Matthews was given stage directions on how to look and where to move.

“I have to make myself look really perfect with my technique, but then also compose the shots to make sure that looks good for the camera,” Matthews said. “People in the background telling me what to do … ‘run here, then run there and run there.’”

Iowa women’s tennis head coach Sasha Schmid is not surprised by Matthews’ newfound acting credentials.

“I think that brings out her personality, how she’s up for anything,” Schmid said. “She’s really articulate and fun-loving, so she’s perfect for something like that.”

Matthews’ favorite professional tennis player is Serena Williams. Like Williams, Matthews’ goal on the court is to be dominant when it matters most.

“I’m a pretty dominant, controlling tennis player,” Matthews said.  “I like to take control of the point and be quite aggressive with my shots to always get my bigger start in the point. I like to go out 100 percent fully, big serves and taking control of what happens rather than just seeing where it goes or letting them do what they want to do.”