Miyoshi adjusts to life at Illinois, serves up success in first season

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Photo courtesy of @IlliniMTennis Instagram

Freshman Kenta Miyoshi dives deep to save the ball. Newcomer Miyoshi adjusts to college life and continues to his first college tennis season this year.

By Martin O'Connor, Staff Writer

Any sport can be watched and enjoyed at face value. However, the backstories and the behind the scenes of the world of sports are what makes people fans for life. Illinois freshman Kenta Miyoshi is one player in Champaign with a story to tell. Miyoshi came from Japan to represent Illinois men’s tennis, and as the season has gone on, he’s only gotten better.

In just one semester, Miyoshi has had to face the highs and lows that come with competing. As exciting as Illinois’ season-opening 6-1 win over Wichita State was, Miyoshi had the lone singles loss that day. Being young and inexperienced can affect confidence on the court, and it takes a lot of responsibility and support for Miyoshi to respond the way he has.

“My teammates are really helping me a lot, adapting to college life and also college matches,” Miyoshi said. “I feel like (Illinois is) a home for me, too.”

Starting freshman year can be an overwhelming task to the ordinary college student. For Miyoshi, the transition certainly was demanding. 

Miyoshi is an international student, and he also had to get used to a new lifestyle and culture as a student-athlete. This move would be a huge culture shock for anyone and would take time to get everything figured out, but Miyoshi has buckled down and proven to be a tough competitor.

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    Balancing this culture shock alongside the rigorous training schedule required of a Division-I tennis player rubbed off on his play initially. Experiencing life in a team setting, as well as playing older players, has taken a long time to get used to.

    “I really struggled the first couple matches because college matches and dual matches are completely different compared to juniors,” Miyoshi said. “I need to be so energetic, really motivated and come after them and show them that I’m here.”

    Two major things that sold Miyoshi on Illinois were the environment that head coach Brad Dancer cultivated and the fans of the tennis program. He said the environment in Champaign is very welcoming, and the Illini fans help get new players acclimated quickly.

    “There’s nothing like Atkins (Tennis Center),” Dancer said. “I’ve been to every tennis facility in college tennis throughout; there’s nothing even close to half as loud as what our building gets when we get people rocking. Opposing teams come in here, and you can feel the energy.”

    Improvement has taken its time with Miyoshi, but he now finds himself in a much more comfortable situation. The welcoming efforts from both the coaches and his teammates have really helped him find his groove this spring season.

    In duals, Miyoshi is 10-8 since his opening singles loss at Wichita State, including a win over No. 13 Georgia’s Teodor Giusca, aiding in his team’s comeback upset over the Bulldogs.

    “With Brad, I’ve been talking a lot about my game, how my tennis is improving, what I need to work on and how I feel on court,” Miyoshi said. “That’s really helping me to build up my game and also as a person.”

    So far, Miyoshi is taking the season day by day, but is always looking to improve. Amid such a prolific first season wearing orange and blue, some of his weaknesses have been exposed against top opposition.

    But Miyoshi, standing at 6 feet 2 inches with a long wingspan, is also honing in on some of his strengths. He possesses an already deadly serve, but putting a good opponent on the back foot early can only aid in his own success.

    “Right now, I’m working on how I can use my serve. If I can use my serve more, I think I can be more aggressive and put pressure on my opponent, which helps a lot for me.”

     

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