Tennis has been growing in popularity in Iowa, and the success of players from the state has helped it to reach more people.
Who are some of the top players from Iowa who have helped make this sport one of our favorites in recent years, as well as some of the players from the past who’ve reached the pro circuit?
1. Alexa Noel
Alexa Noel was born in New Jersey in 2002 but has made a name for herself since joining the University of Iowa tennis program. Even before that, Alexa was successful on the youth circuit, winning several titles and representing the US in various tournaments across the planet.
At the time of writing, she’s climbed to as high as number 4 on the ITF world rankings. Among her top achievements to date, Alexa reached the final of the Wimbledon girl’s championship in 2019 and won her first pro tournament at the start of the following year, with experts predicting that she has a bright future ahead of her.
However, the right-hander’s stay in Iowa seems set to end soon, as the University of Miami recently announced that she’ll be joining them for the 2022-23 tennis season. Paige Yaroshuk-Tews is the head women’s tennis coach at the Hurricanes, and she called Alexa a “program changer”, saying that their visions are completely aligned.
Tennis fans in Iowa will recall the sophomore turning in some terrific performances in her first year with the Hawkeyes, with a 24-1 record in singles games. She also became the most successful Iowa player in the history of the program in terms of being the first ITA All-American and also the first Big Ten Player of the Year from the University of Iowa.
While her future now seems to lie away from the state, it seems certain the Iowan tennis fans will continue to follow Alexa Noel’s career closely and hope that she goes on to fulfill her promise.
💥 Alexa Noel continues to make program history, becoming Iowa’s first @bigten Women's Tennis Athlete of the Year
— Iowa Women's Tennis (@iowa_tennis) May 3, 2021
2. Kareem Al Allaf
Born in Des Moines to Syrian parents, Kareem Al Allaf moved to Iowa and played his college tennis at the University of Iowa. He’s now a tennis pro and has made a solid start to this phase of his career, including building up a record of 18-9 while representing Syria in the Davis Cup.
Kareem is fondly remembered in Iowa for racking up the highest number of wins achieved in singles and doubles by any Hawkeyes player in history. He won 164 matches in total, made up of 95 singles games and 69 doubles while he was here.
In 2019, the player picked up 38 points from games on the ITF World Tennis Tour, and at present, his highest ATP singles ranking is 862. He’s currently at this highest-ever ranking and the signs are that he’ll probably carry on improving and climbing up the rankings.
Kareem Al Allaf looks like one of the Iowa tennis players that goes on to forge a good pro career and that reflects well on the Iowa program. His last couple of events have seen him go out at the round of 32 stages, but he’s shown enough promise in his career to date to suggest that a breakthrough win could be on the way before too long.
3. Dan Goldie
Born in Sioux City, Dan Goldie played his college tennis at Stanford University. He was the 1986 National Singles Championship winner and graduated from Stanford with a degree in Economics before turning professional on the tennis circuit.
Playing as a right-hander, he had an impressive career where he won a couple of singles titles, in Newport in 1987 and then in Seoul a year later. Dan also claimed a couple of doubles titles around the same time.
However, 1989 was arguably the finest year of his tennis career. Dan reached the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon tournament by beating players such as Jimmy Connors and Wally Masur before eventually losing to Ivan Lendl. He reached his career-high ATP singles ranking of 27 during that same year.
After retiring from the sport, Dan co-wrote a bestselling book on investing and set up his own independent financial advisory in California. In fact, he’s been listed as one of the top 100 independent financial advisors in the US.
— Morningstar, Inc. (@MorningstarInc) June 26, 2015
4. Micki Schillig
We need to go back a few years to look at the career of one of Iowa’s best-known tennis players. Micki Schillig was born in Cedar Rapids in 1960 and went to Cedar Rapids LaSalle, which didn’t have any tennis courts or a team that played the sport. Despite this, she was a state high school champion in the sport on three occasions before going to San Diego State University, which she chose ahead of Stanford.
In fact, she might have won a fourth state title in her sophomore year but a scheduling conflict with a national tournament meant that she never had a chance to do it. She would have been only the third Iowa girl to win four state titles if she had been successful in the 1977 tournament that she was forced to miss.
Once at college, she was an All-American three times and was runner-up in the 1982 NCAA singles championship, which was the first-ever year of this tournament. Her career at SDSU ended with an impressive 105-36 record, and she also reached the national doubles quarter-finals on two occasions Micki then played tennis on the pro circuit for a few years in the mid-1980s.
5. Roger Knapp
Roger Knapp was born in Des Moines and attended Herbert Hoover High School before going to La Jolla High School in California and learning from famous coach Pancho Segura. He then went to the University of South California, where he had a tennis scholarship. During his time at college, Roger was an All-American twice in doubles tennis.
He turned pro after graduating in 1982 but a further period of studying at a Baptist bible college meant that he didn’t get his career on the international circuit up and running right away. The left-hander got as high as 146 in the world rankings, and a bit higher as a doubles player.
His finest moment was arguably in 1985, when he got to the semi-finals of the Bristol Grand Prix event and beat the highly-ranked Henri Leconte 6-4, 6-2 along the way. This tournament saw him pick up his first wins on the pro tour.
However, the Iowan was reported in the press at the time as saying that he would rather run an orphanage than play pro tennis. Roger also said that his time away from the sport meant that he returned to it mentally and physically refreshed, following his two years at the bible college.
After the end of his playing career, Roger became a coach at USC and helped the Trojans to win a Pac-10 tennis title, before going to Drake University in Des Moines and achieving further coaching success with the students there.
He sadly passed away in 2008, after a series of health problems. However, Roger Knapp’s legacy lives on thanks to the fact that his name has been put on the Knapp Center and the Roger Knapp Tennis Center at Drake University.
What’s the Future of Tennis in Iowa Looking Like?
The success in the last few years of players like Alexa Noel and Kareem Al Alllaf suggests that we can expect to see a new generation of Iowan tennis players coming through. We can also look back to the players who’ve not retired from the sport to see some further examples of how players from the Hawkeye state have carved out solid tennis careers.
The success of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes is sure to play a part in this, while we will probably also see players born in Iowa move to other states to play their college tennis. Either way, tennis fans in Iowa will already be looking out for the next generation of players to join those we’ve listed here.
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