Australian rookie heats up for GVSU tennis

GVL / Emily Frye
Freshman Alex van de Steenhoven

GVL/Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Freshman Alex van de Steenhoven

Kate Nuyen

Allendale may not have much in common with the Land Down Under, but the Grand Valley State University men’s tennis team seems to have found an up-and-comer in one if its newest members, Australia native Alex van de Steenoven.

The freshman started playing tennis because when he was growing up he enjoyed hitting things, and his father thought tennis would be a more constructive activity. His love of hitting things grew through the years, and eventually it turned into an outstanding high school career. He represented his state, Victoria, at the Pizzey Cup and took a silver medal in the high school national championships.

Since moving to Allendale, he said he has noticed a difference in his transition from high school.

“College is more intense,” van de Steenoven said. “It’s about getting the win at all costs, when before we focused more on proper technique.”

Despite his youth, van de Steenoven is a member of GVSU’s top doubles team with senior Francis Bertrand. The duo took third at the Depauw Invitational over the weekend, and, in singles, Bertrand finished as the runner-up in the No. 1 spot while van de Steenoven picked up his first career single flight win at the No. 4 spot.

Andrew Darrell, an informal assistant coach and former GVSU standout, said that van de Steenoven is rolling smoothly into college play.

“He is a very intelligent player and he is a great doubles player,” said Darrell, GVSU’s all-time leader in career singles victories. “Knowing how to play doubles as a freshmen is very rare.”

Though van de Steenoven may not be new to the tennis courts, he is new to the U.S. His first day at GVSU also happened to be the first time he showed up to practice.

“It was a little daunting and I was nervous, but I was still excited though,” he said. “I was walking around campus with all the players on the team thinking, ‘this is going to be my family for the next few years.’”

Darrell said van de Steenoven’s personality could help to bolster the team’s morale, and that the newcomer is fitting right in. The rookie is seen as an asset not only for chemistry, but also for his ability to compete on the court.

“He is an all around great player with virtually no weaknesses,” Darrell said. “A lot of people have weaker backhands, but he has a great backhand. It took him some time to adjust to the jet leg from Australia, but now that he has, he is doing great.”

It seems van de Steenoven might be running into his biggest challenges off the court.

“The lifestyle change is hard,” he said. “I have never lived by myself, and I have never had to do things like organizing laundry or make my own food.”

Overall, though, van de Steenoven said he is enjoying his time in the U.S.

“The people are really nice here and there is great food,” he said.

His favorite food so far? A classic dish: Olive Garden’s breadsticks.