Paving the way for the North Carolina men’s tennis squad’s 2-0 start to the season Saturday was a 22-year-old sophomore from Billund, Denmark, whose English is as fluent as his impressive backhand.
Esben Hess-Olesen — UNC’s No. 1 singles player and a member of the nation’s No. 44 doubles team with junior Nelson Vick — swept his competition Saturday, going undefeated on the day and helping guide the Tar Heels to consecutive victories.
“(Hess-Olesen) has been a huge factor in the team, his work ethic has been contagious, and he’s really led the way,” said UNC assistant coach Tripp Phllips, who helped recruit Hess-Olsen. “He’s really improved a lot, and he’s been a guy who’s done it the right way.
“He’s turned into a really good player, and it’s helped us as well because it kind of provides a blueprint for the other guys of what they need to do if they want to have success with their games as well,” he said.
The 6-foot-2 Dane has been preparing for the stiff competition of Division I tennis his entire life.
“Because Denmark is such a small country, I’ve always played a lot with older guys in tournaments,” he said. Hess-Olesen said he rarely played in juniors tournaments, preferring to play against adult competitors.