Ramirez adjusts to weather, lineup

Colombian native Juan Pablo Ramirez is a regular singles and doubles player.

Minnesotas Juan Pablo Ramirez plays doubles against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Image by Hannah Strickland, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Juan Pablo Ramirez plays doubles against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, at the Baseline Tennis Center.

by Dane Mizutani

Gophers junior tennis player Juan Pablo Ramirez may never get used to winter in Minnesota.

He grew up more than 3,000 miles away in Bogota, Colombia, and said the weather change has been a tough adjustment. This year has been especially hard, as temperatures remained in the teens into March.

But the cold weather didn’t affect his choice to play for the Gophers.

“I knew I was coming here as soon as I stepped foot on these courts,” Ramirez said. “I told [head coach] Geoff [Young], ‘I’m coming here,’ as soon as I visited. He told me I have to look at other schools, and I told him, ‘There’s no way. I want to come here.’”

Nearly three years later, Ramirez is a regular in Minnesota’s tennis lineup.

Ramirez went 0-4 last weekend in matches against Northwestern and Illinois. Days earlier, he had been named Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week after going 4-0 against Michigan State and Michigan.

Ramirez has seen moderate success in his third season with the Gophers in both doubles and singles.

He is living a dream he constructed as an adolescent in Colombia.

Ramirez said he first picked up a racket at 6 years old and got serious about tennis six years later.

“I remember I turned 12, and I told my parents I really wanted to play [in] college,” he said. “I’ve kind of been working toward it since then.”

Ramirez had helpful ties to the Gophers program, as two former players were also from Colombia.

Young said those players helped Ramirez with the process and informed Young about him. Young took notice but never saw Ramirez play live.

“I only watched him on video,” Young said.

Ramirez said he visited Indiana and had moderate interest in Virginia Tech and DePaul, but he was hooked as soon as he came to the

Ramirez said the atmosphere around the team and the coaches played a pivotal role in his decision.

“They really care about me as a person and not just a player,” he said. “That really affected my decision, too.”

Ramirez played mostly doubles in his first two years on campus. He got frustrated at times because he wasn’t in the lineup consistently, but he said he understood his role.

He transitioned this year into the singles lineup, where he has an 11-11 record. He said he prefers to play doubles but enjoys singles as well.

Ramirez has paired with sophomore Leandro Toledo in the past, but he was placed with senior Rok Bonin earlier this season.

“I felt putting them together along with our other two doubles pairs gave us the best chance to win a doubles point consistently,” Young said. “We now have three doubles pairs that on any given day can win for us.”