Story by Taylor Soule
Freshman Evy Van Genechten traveled 4,358 miles from her home in Antwerp, Belgium to play tennis at Drake. Now halfway through her first spring season as a Bulldog, Van Genechten sat down with The Times-Delphic to discuss her improvements, her favorite players and her wish to try boxing.
Times-Delphic: When and how did you start playing tennis?
Evy Van Genechten: I started playing tennis when I was about 4-and-a-half, 5 years old, so, a long time ago. Basically, I started playing tennis just because my dad played tennis, not professional but just recreational. So, I started playing tennis at my tennis club where I still play in Belgium, and I started, basically, with just recreational tennis, in small groups. I loved it.
TD: When did you know you wanted to play tennis in college?
EVG: Basically, relatively soon, when I was about 8 years old, I started to play tournaments, and I already knew that I wanted to do more than just play recreational tournaments or just play smaller tournaments.
TD: How does playing tennis in the U.S. differ from playing in Belgium?
EVG: The style of playing here is totally different. In Europe, we just play more aggressive, and here, players just more think about, “How should I play?” It’s more technical over here. In Europe, we just play really aggressive, really hard. We focus mainly on our groundstrokes. Here, it’s more like variation, and people think more about, “OK, I have to play against that person. She plays like that, so I have to play more like that.”
TD: Did you have to adjust to playing on a new surface when you arrived in the U.S.?
EVG: In Belgium, we basically have all kinds of surfaces, so in my tennis club, we have hard court inside, and during the summer, we play on clay. Of course, it depends because in Belgium, if it rains during the summer, we play on hard court. Sometimes, if I play (a) tournament in Belgium, I have to play on carpet. That’s another surface. I also played on grass in the Netherlands, so there are all kinds of surfaces in Belgium. Basically, I was used to playing on hard court because of my tennis club.
TD: How do you stay connected to the tennis community in Belgium?
EVG: They call me sometimes, and I stay connected to my coach and my physical coach. My physical coach and my other two coaches, they told me, “If you have any questions, call me,” and I talk to my friends, just in general, on a daily basis.
TD: What motivates you to play tennis every day?
EVG: It’s my passion just because I started really early, and it’s the only sport I play. I didn’t play any other sports when I was younger. Basically, I just love the game. In Belgium, when my friends used to go out, I said, “No, I have to play (in a) tournament tomorrow,” so in my entire life, tennis is just my priority. I love the game. That’s just why.
TD: Do you prefer singles or doubles and why?
EVG: I prefer singles. Everyone knows it, especially Coach (Paul Thomson). You’re the only one who is responsible in singles, and in doubles, you have to rely on other people. Also, I know you have to play volleys in singles, too, but I just prefer to play groundstrokes and just prefer to rely on my groundstrokes because I know they’re more consistent than my volleys. So, that’s why I prefer singles, because I prefer groundstrokes, and you’re the only one you’re responsible for. You have control of everything in singles.
TD: Who are your favorite professional players?
EVG: My favorite professional players, of course, would be Kim Clijsters. Now, it’s kind of weird, I prefer players who have the opposite style of playing that I have. So, Justine Henin was a player who used to play with a lot of variation. A slice, a volley, she could do everything. That’s basically the opposite of how I play. I love to play a slice or a drop shot, but basically, I don’t trust my volleys. I prefer my groundstrokes. So, that’s basically the opposite. Those are really the kind of players I look up to. For instance, like a (Samantha) Stosur or a (Francesca) Schiavone or a Na Li. They know how to play with variation. They can play a drop shot or a slice. Those are the players I just love. Not like a (Maria) Sharapova, who just basically plays only groundstrokes.
TD: If you weren’t playing tennis, what sport do you think you would be playing?
EVG: I have never tried it, but I am kind of a fan of boxing. If I had the chance, my dad would allow me to do it, but my mom is kind of protective. I know Kim Clijsters, as practice, she used to box just because of footwork. It’s really good for your footwork. So, I asked my dad a couple times last year whether I could start boxing because it’s good for your footwork, and my dad said, “Yeah, OK, it’s fine by me, you can do that,” but my mom said, “No, what if something happens, or you can’t play tennis anymore?” I would probably try that, and I would probably try basketball or something. When I was a kid, I used to play with my brothers.
TD: Why did you choose Drake?
EVG: Basically, because I was looking for a university that offered me the best combination between tennis and between my studies because that’s the reason I came to the United States. In Belgium, it’s really hard (to) combine them. I didn’t want to give up my tennis or my studies, and it’s really hard to combine university with tennis in Belgium, so I came to the United States because of those two reasons, to combine it. Drake offered me the best school for both. Of course, the school is really good, and it gave me the best combination between those two of all the universities that contacted me.
TD: What’s the best part of playing for Drake women’s tennis?
EVG: The best part of playing here is the team, of course, just the support from people you get here. Also, I really love the teachers here. They’re really engaged with everything that’s going on around them. For instance, my accounting teacher, she came up to me yesterday and started talking, basically, about her daughter that used to play tennis, too. Other teachers, too, they come up to you and just start talking like, “Hey, how’s it going? Who do you have to play? Where do you have to play this weekend?” Everyone is so engaged with everything that’s going on here, and that’s just the thing that I love about Drake.
TD: How do you act as a leader on your team?
EVG: Right now, Ali (Patterson), the senior, is kind of our team leader. She behaves like an assistant coach, which is really good for us, but I think we all, as individuals, try to stand up as a leader on a specific part. I come in quite a lot on my own just practice, and I want to reflect that to the whole team, so that’s what my goal is, to make sure that other people come in on their own to practice on their own. That’s basically what I do on the team to motivate people to come in on their own. Sometimes, I just say, “Hey, come. Let’s go. Do you have class tomorrow at 5? No? OK, let’s come in and just hit and just practice.”
TD: How has your game improved in the early stages of your Drake career?
EVG: I can say that my volleys improved because in Belgium, I sometimes would have to play doubles, but mainly I played singles. Here, you just have to play doubles every time. I knew that this was going to happen, that my volleys would improve, so that’s really good. And just, my consistency improved, also, because, of course, in Belgium, I couldn’t practice that much because of my school. So, here, I practice on a daily basis, so I am much more consistent than I used to be in Belgium.