Iowa International Tennis Players Create Global Presence

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With players from Germany, Czech Republic, Peru and India, the team creates a diverse and fun environment by sharing cultural backgrounds.

Isabelle Cervantes

Iowa’s Marisa Schmidt watches the ball during a women’s tennis match between Iowa and Michigan State at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans, 4- 3.


Iowa tennis sophomore Barbora Pokorna entered a new realm of tennis in the United States when she first stepped onto the court at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.

Pokorna is 4,000 miles from her hometown of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, but she’s not alone in her international endeavor.

Tennis is one of the few sports in the world, and such globalization is evident with the 2022-23 Iowa women’s tennis team. The Hawkeyes have five international players on this year’s roster, all of whom have faced unfamiliar situations in the United States.

One of Pokorna’s main challenges in his first year in the United States was simply playing doubles. She said she barely played tennis in two-on-two mode in the Czech Republic and playing close to the net was uncomfortable at first.

“It can be scary because the ball is moving so fast that I got hit in the ribs several times,” Pokorna said. “But I’ve improved so much, and now I think I like doubles more than singles.”

Rookie Daianne Hayashida not only had to acclimatize to the doubles game, but also move around on a hard court. Back in his hometown of Lima, Peru, Hayashida played tennis four hours a day on a clay surface.

Hayashida said she was much more mobile playing on clay than on hard court. Pokorna agreed, saying she needed to adjust her footwork and body position to improve her timing without being able to slip.

“Hard is so much faster, with clay you have time [to return the ball]”, Hayashida said. “Here [in the U.S.] you always have to be super ready, you can’t slip your feet like I always did on clay. Here I was like, ‘I can’t move.’

For many international players, their early years at Iowa are usually their first time playing in a team environment. High schools outside the United States generally lack high school tennis teams, so each played for an outside club or represented their country, usually through individual tournaments.

Map by Ryan Hansen/The Daily Iowan

Sophomore Marisa Schmidt, born and raised in Karlsruhe, Germany, finds a team concept refreshing.

“It was good, from the first moment I really liked my teammates and my coaches, but it was different training all the time as a team and spending so much time with one team,” said Schmidt. “There’s not as much individual pressure, but sometimes I just want to win even more because I just want to win for the team.”

RELATED: Iowa women’s tennis ends season with loss to No. 48 Illinois in Big Ten tournament

Moving between countries is nothing new for junior Vipasha Mehra. Born in Chennai, India, Mehra said her father’s banking job required several moves throughout her life, including stops in London, Doha, Dubai and Calgary.

She said her experience of living around the world made it easy for her to interact with her new teammates and learn more about their cultural backgrounds.

“I’ve learned so much German over the past few weeks,” Mehra said. “It’s really nice to have teammates where we can just chat about how things work in our countries.”

Pokorna said learning different languages ​​helps form crucial team bonds, whether it’s teaching swear words in their native language or creating a playlist of Czech rap, Spanish songs and music. German.

“I think it’s great to have people from all over,” she said. “We can try to learn other people’s languages, we listen to music from our countries and we all have accents. I think it’s great to be so diverse.

Mehra said those bonds create chemistry and trust on and off the pitch. In the long run, she says, confidence is what leads to victory and championships.

“We are all honest and responsible to each other,” Mehra said. “[my teammates] are my best friends.”

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