Belmont tennis player Hendrik Inno became the first Bruin ever to compete in the Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association Masters in Malibu, California, in September.
“It’s one of the biggest tournaments in the fall and one of the biggest tournaments in collegiate tennis,” said Belmont men’s tennis head coach Mauricio Antun.
Inno was invited to the prestigious tournament after an incredible season, with a 6-0 conference record in singles and Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship win.
“Hendrik’s accomplishments have been quite remarkable, and it’s great to see the recognition he’s received, from OVC Player of the Year, to being invited to one of the most prestigious tournaments in collegiate tennis,” said Sam Roddy, Belmont’s men’s tennis media relations intern.
But Inno’s journey to become the best tennis player in the OVC hasn’t been easy. The junior athlete has spent the last two years with Belmont’s tennis program, working hard to get where he is today. Before that, he traveled halfway across the world for the opportunity to play tennis at Belmont.
Inno is from Someru, Estonia, and came to Belmont to achieve a long-time goal of playing college tennis in the U.S..
“It wasn’t rough, but it definitely was different. I was very open minded in coming here,” said Inno.
Inno was recruited by Antun, Belmont’s first-year head coach at the time.
“He’s pretty new, so I was one of his first recruits, and I’m glad he found me,” said Inno.
Coach Antun, another Belmont international tennis player, was an OVC Player of the Year just like Inno. Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Antun won the award while playing at Belmont in 2014. In 2015, he was hired as the team’s head coach.
Antun, who won OVC Coach of the Year in the spring, traveled with Inno to help him prepare for the tournament.
At the tournament, Inno lost in the first round after giving up the first two sets to Laurens Verboven from the University of Southern California . Verboven would go on to beat his next four opponents and win the tournament.
“Even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, I think that the experience itself was awesome,” said Antun. “I don’t think every coach in the U.S. gets a chance to take one of their players to a tournament like that.”
Because of this tournament, coach Antun had the opportunity to work with Inno one-on-one, which he doesn’t get to do often during the preseason and regular season.
“It’s just me and Hendrik,” said Antun. “Being able to watch his whole match is something I don’t get to do when watching dual matches at the same time. This kind of gives me an idea of what we have to work on and what we don’t have to work on.”
Inno’s playing style gives him an advantage over his opponents, Antun said. He plays in an older, more traditional style, tending to play close to the net and finish the point there. Many modern players aren’t used to this.
“When they see a guy like that, they don’t know what to do,” said Antun. “Hendrik is an old-school player, he loves to finish the point up at the net. He’s an aggressive player and also knows how to play defense when he has to. He’s got great hands, and I’ve seen him hit some volleys I don’t see very often.”
Inno enjoyed his experience at the tournament, but his main focus still lies with his fellow Bruins.
On Monday, Inno and fellow Bruin Marko Ilic became the first Belmont team in history to win the men’s ITA Ohio Valley Regional Doubles.
Going forward, the duo will compete in the ITA Fall National Championship in November.
From there, Inno plans to focus on the tennis team’s spring schedule and hopes to help Belmont win the OVC again. “I wouldn’t say that this tournament was as important as any of the spring matches would be,” said Inno. “Winning the conference is the main goal.”
Photo courtesy of Belmont University Athletics