Central Illinois Sports Report with Elise Menaker: Jared Hiltzik acing competition
Growing up if you have any connection to tennis legend Billie Jean King like our mom is good friends with her, it's almost as if being good a tennis is written in your genes. And that could be the case for University of Illinois sophomore Jared Hiltzik. In just two years he's beat some of the country's top competition, and in this week's Central Illinois sports report WAND's Elise Menaker found out how he's acing his opponents with more than just his racquet.
At 6 foot 1 inch, 160 pounds, Hiltzik may not be the biggest one on the court. He may not be the strongest, but his true strength has nothing to do with power at all.
"I've become very good at controlling my mind on the court, being really calm on the court," Hiltzik said.
But early on in his career you could say his mental game was his toughest opponent.
"Not a lot of people know this but when I was younger I was actually suspended from competition just because I was so angry on the court and me just being a lot more calm, like I was saying, has really contributed to me being better," Hiltzik explained.
Today, maturity has become one of Hiltzik's strengths, along with his ability to read the court.
"He really understands the nuances of how much depth to put on the ball, how much spin, how much height to put on the ball, where to locate the ball and really try to get other players out of their comfort zone," explained Head Coach Brad Dancer.
And when it comes to speed, Hiltzik is one of the faster guys you'll see out there. That's what caught the attention of Dancer, the un-teachables.
"Something in me I just kept liking what I was seeing," Dancer said. "I thought it was a kid that had great court sense, great speed and I thought he could get a lot better."
Quickly the sophomore has risen to the top of the University of Illinois men's tennis squad.
"He's playing at a level in tennis that's equivalent to a NBA level or baseball level or something like that or again NFL, something where he would be on a roster and playing for the team," the head coach said.
"My biggest accomplishment so far is beating Blaz Rola of Ohio State," Hiltzik said. "He was the number one ranked player last year, won NCAA's. I was his only loss so that's one of my big things to go off of."
Also he was named Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the week three times, Big Ten freshman of the Year, First Team All Big Ten, he finished as one of the highest ranked freshman Illinois has ever had and he's playing number one singles on a team ranked top 10 in the country.
'We're a great group of guys," Hiltzik said. "I love them to death. We're all so close, we all live together, all eight of us live in the same apartment complex."
They live together and they win together. Everyone on the team is returning next year.
"So it's kind of a unique group of guys that we have a lot of fun with," Hiltzik said.
Among the group, Hiltzik is considered Mr. Mom.
"I think he takes everything very seriously," Dancer stated. "He's kind of a worry wort if you will. I think when we go on the road he knows more about travel and logistics than the coaches do."
"Well I get it from my mom, arriving to the airport three hours early worrying about everything," Hiltzik said with a laugh.
But his worrying is transferring to success on the court.
"I'm always worrying about the little things and I guess that's what makes me good," he said.
And the goal is to be one of the greatest.
"Definitely my goal is to make a living playing pro tennis," Hiltzik said.
Once an athlete who had dreams of playing division three or at a small division one school, now there's no question where Hilztik belongs.
He has returned from a five week wrist injury. The come back didn't go quite as Hiltzik had hoped. The number nine ranked player lost both singles matches. The Illini failed to snap Ohio State's 186 consecutive home win streak. April 4th and 6th they face off against Michigan State and Michigan at home.
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