Sept. 29, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- If Christopher Speer was a man of lesser sheer will and determination, the past two weekends probably wouldn't have been some of the most memorable and seemingly improbable of his life.
It had been 1,071 days since Speer last saw action for the University of Iowa men's tennis team, which came at the Purdue Invitational his freshman season. Now a senior, Speer finally got his chance at the same tournament nearly three years later to prove himself, to show how hard he had been working, to show how far pure dedication can take you.
"All the times I spent sitting back and watching others play, I just knew if I worked hard that one day I'd get my chance... I did," said Speer, reflecting on his long wait to play again.
On Oct. 16, 2011, Speer took the court again for the Hawkeyes in a tournament. Only two weeks later, Speer finds himself with three flight titles and the best singles record on the team by three wins.
"It's great to be in this position showing that work ethic goes a long way. It's not always how talented you are -- it's how hard you work and how far you are willing to go to win."
UI senior Christopher Speer
Speer earned the Flight B back draw title and the Flight C doubles main draw title at the Purdue Invitational and the Flight B singles main draw title at the Drake Invitational. Speer has an 8-1 singles record this fall season after winning eight straight matches.
"I couldn't think of a better example of a guy that goes about his business and works his tail off, and then gets rewarded for it," said head coach Steve Houghton. "It's a great story."
After his first match since his long awaited return at the Purdue Invitational, Speer was right back where he started -- facing adversity. Speer lost a match to Wisconsin-Green Bay's Paul Swanson without winning one game in a 6-0, 6-0 loss.
Just like during his long wait to play again, that loss wouldn't be enough to shake Speer's will power.
"It's my last year, and I've put so much into this," said Speer. "I had to put it all on the line and show what I was capable of. I never gave up in any of matches, and I never stopped competing as hard as I could."
Speer won his next four matches to reach the finals match and won 48 games while only losing 14 games in that stretch. Speer won the title match in a tiebreaker over Western Michigan's Aaron Wong 6-2, 4-6 (10-5). Speer also won three straight doubles matches with Joey White to win the Flight C main draw.
Riding a wave of new-found momentum, Speer won three straight singles matches in the Flight B main draw at the Drake Invitational. In two of those victories, Speer lost the first set by a 1-6 margin before rallying to win and reach the finals match. It wasn't contested, however, as Iowa freshman Matt Hagan also reached the finals.
After an incredible run the past two weeks, Speer is showing how important the right attitude and work ethic is on and off the court.
"It's great to be in this position showing that work ethic goes a long way," said Speer. "It's not always how talented you are -- it's how hard you work and how far you are willing to go to win."
Speer is now in the mix to play singles for Iowa in the spring as a top-six player on the team.
"He is one of those guys that gets a lot of mileage out of competing so hard," said Houghton. "He has put himself in the running for playing for us this spring, and that's something he has earned."