The summer holidays have started and that means that our student-athletes have time for more than just study and sports. That’s why Slamstox tennis player Laura Rijkers started her summer internship at Slamstox where she helps future college tennis players with their process. Laura is part of the University of Arkansas and plays Division I tennis.

After the summer holidays she returns to the USA and starts the second semester of her Junior year. This means that she has already gained a lot of experience that she would like to tell us more about. That is why today the first ‘College Talk with Laura’, a new series of articles, appeared on our news page!

Today ‘clinch matches’ are central, that’s how the decisive matches are often called within college sports. Laura tells more about her experience with clinching matches within College tennis below!

Laura’s story

What are clinch matches? In college tennis matches there are 7 points to be earned. The match starts off with 3 doubles matches of 1 set each. If you win 2 out of 3 doubles, it means you won the “doubles point”: your team now takes the lead, 1-0. Afterwards, 6 singles matches are played and every match is worth 1 point. Once you earn 4 points as a team, the match is won and the person who took care of the 4th point is called “the clincher”. Sometimes, the overall score is 3-3 and there is only 1 match still going on, the match that decides it all. Then the battle gets real: what team is going to clinch the match?

When there is only 1 match still going on (the match that will determine the outcome), all the players, coaches and fans gather around that court. All of your teammates line up on the court next to yours to cheer you on.

Laura and het team – University of Arkansas

After every point you win, your teammates and the fans yell at the top of their lungs. It is nerve wrecking to be in this situation but it is beautiful at the same time.

I got to experience this twice this past semester. The first time was against Ole Miss, which was the first match we played in our conference this year. The second time was against Vanderbilt, who were ranked #9 (!) in the whole country.

In my match against Vanderbilt I was down 6-7 3-5. I managed to fight my way back to play a tiebreaker in the second set. In this tiebreaker I was trailing 6-2, so I had no choice but to try and survive 4 match points. My opponent hit an unforced error for her first match point, a good start for me: 6-3. The next two rally’s I build the point really well, which resulted in a forehand winner and a forced error from my opponent: 6-5. Only 1 more match point to go. She serves, I hit a deep return and we find ourselves in an extremely long rally. I try to push her back with another deep ball so I can dominate the rally. This ball however, bounced very close to the baseline, but I just felt it in my guts that this ball was in. My opponent however sees it differently and calls the ball out. I immediately looked at the referee, who then put her hand out, palm faced towards the ground: “Correction, the ball was good.” Followed by the sound of me yelling as hard as I possibly can: “COME OOOOON”. Not just me, but the fans were also going crazy (yes, fans going crazy at a tennis match, welcome to college tennis). I then managed to win the tiebreaker, so the we were going into a third set.

The third set was very, very close and more and more matches were being won or lost. Once I was up 4-3 in the third, everyone else finished their matches: we were tied 3-3 and I was the one who could make or break the day. EVERYONE gathered around my court. I tried to push back the nerves and to just focus on every single point. My teammates and the fans yell as loud as they can after every point I win: they are being so extremely loud that I feel like I’m at home and the Netherlands just won the Soccer World Championship. In that moment, everything is about you and you’re aware of that. Due to this “awareness”, I felt like I went into some sort of trance: the only thing on my mind was the next point I was going to play. Eventually I managed to take the lead, 5-4. I get to serve for the match. After an unforced error from me, one from her, and two good serves, I’m up 40-15. Match point. The head coach walks up to me and says “slice serve wide, then put the ball back behind her”. And that is what I did. My first serve went wide, on the line. She makes the return, but it’s too short and I attack the ball with my forehand and put it back behind her. Winner. “LET’S GOOOOOOOO”, I scream.

Laura Rijkers – University of Arkansas

Before I know it, all my teammates storm the court. They jump on me and against me, almost pushing me over. We celebrate our victory as if we just won a million dollars. The #9 in the United States just got beat and I was the deciding factor. Check out the video below for this moment.

Got goosebumps reading Laura’s story? We also! The atmosphere that every college match brings is phenomenal and beautiful to experience for every sports enthusiast. Want to read more about Laura’s college time so far? Then keep an eye on our news page and social media in the coming weeks!

Do you want to become a student-athlete as well? Or would you like more information about scholarships? Reach out and we will help you!