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Unique pair bonding, winning at ECU

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East Carolina's Javier Renones, left, and doubles teammate Wisse Jonker pose on the court before pratice on April 13, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, April 15, 2018

East Carolina’s men’s tennis team has a reliable doubles tandem formed in uniqueness in freshman Wisse Jonker from the Netherlands and sophomore Spaniard Javier Renones.

Individually, they are at different levels with their fluency with the English language, their academics and their overall comfort level in the United States. Together, they have bonded through a 15-2 doubles record this year and their evolving love for the intensity in U.S. college tennis matches and football Saturdays in Greenville.

“I remember the football game against N.C. State (in 2016), that was the craziest game I have ever been to,” said Renones, a left-hander from Santander, Spain. “Back home I have a soccer team, but it’s not like that. I saw the stadium packed with like 55,00 people and it was crazy and we won.”

Both Europeans naturally tried soccer as kids, but they preferred tennis. Jonker’s mother was a tennis coach and Renones gets some of his athletic ability from his father, who was a European handball champion.

They are not the only international transplants and budding college football fans for the Pirates, who have won a school-record 20 matches heading into today’s regular-season finale against Connecticut at the River Birch Tennis Complex. Seven of the nine players on the roster are not American.

The foreign players have had landmark and sometimes uncomfortable moments with ECU tennis. That often comes with the noise during matches.

“During my first college match I kept thinking, ‘What are those guys doing?’ because you have to scream (for teammates),” Jonker said. “I’m not that kind of person, but I have become more into it. I think it’s really cool.”

Jonker said he also has had to adjust to the use of signals between teammates, like in volleyball before serving or in baseball when a catcher gives a sign to the pitcher for what type of pitch to throw. In European doubles tennis, the players usually huddle and discuss strategy between points instead of using signals before serves.

“When I serve now, he knows where I am going to go before I hit,” Renones said. “He doesn’t have to tell me anymore because he knows where I am going every time.”

The duo is 3-0 from the No. 2 doubles slot and 12-2 in the third position.

As singles players, Renones is 23-6 and Jonker is 16-2.

But it’s also not always easy to be a student-athlete in a foreign country. Both players said they miss family and friends.

Jonker admitted that classes at ECU have been a big adjustment for him because learning in English can still create confusion at times.

“I am pretty good at home at economics, but here every word is different so I have to translate every word,” he said. “That is pretty difficult for me. I think I just need to get through this first semester and get good grades and focus on my classes, and I’ll probably get more used to it.”

When they are on the court and their element, Jonker is the more aggressive player. Renones’ serve is a strong suit.

“He is way more aggressive than me, with a good forehand and good volleys,” Renones said. “But we both can be similar in that we both really like to go to the net.”

In addition to Renones, Jonker, Austin Allen from Asheboro and Maryland native Kasey Countee, the Pirates have two players from England, two from Germany and Vlad Anghel is from Bucharest, Romania.

“I was here last year and I think we are working harder now,” Renones said. “That is making us play better and it is helping us a lot mentally.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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