Freshman settles into lineup 4,000 miles from home

German native Ruben Weber plays No. 6 singles for the Gophers.

Dane Mizutani

Ruben Weber has found a steady spot in the Gophers men’s tennis lineup more than 4,000 miles from home.

Weber, a true freshman from Alzey, Germany, has helped drive the bottom half of the lineup from the No. 6 singles player this season.

He is 13-14 overall this season and 1-6 in the Big Ten but said he is confident in his skills at this point in his college career.

“I’m definitely proud to be a part of the starting lineup as a freshman,” Weber said. “And I’m still on my way up.”

Weber started playing tennis at age 4 because his father and older brother played, and he looked up to them.

He struggled when playing against his older brother as a kid. But the struggles proved their worth for Weber, who said he started to impress some coaches as an 8-year-old playing in the under-10 bracket.

Though he caught the eye of coaches in Germany, he didn’t garner immediate interest from college programs in the U.S. He had to reach out to coaches for that to happen.

Weber had ties to Minnesota. Former Gophers player Raoul Schwark was also from Germany, and Weber said that helped in his recruitment process.

“He was one of my brother’s best friends growing up,” Weber said of Schwark. “He started talking to me to see if I wanted to come to the U.”

Weber was interested and contacted Gophers associate head coach Urban Ljubic.

Ljubic came to visit Weber in Germany during the recruitment process. Ljubic is from Slovenia, and Weber said the coach visited him in Germany after one of his trips home.

Ljubic said overseas visits are a common practice for the Minnesota coaching staff when recruiting international players.

“We want to talk to them so they know what they are getting into with our team,” Ljubic said. “We also like to talk to the parents to make sure they know where their kid is going to school.”

Weber said different colleges wrote him via Facebook as his recruitment started to pick up. He said he chose the Gophers because they had a good economics program and a good tennis team. He said Ljubic’s visit impacted his decision as well.

Weber had never visited the University of Minnesota before he arrived. He said the size of the campus was a little overwhelming at first.

“I actually wanted to visit the college, but I was kind of lazy with the paperwork,” he laughed. “I had a lot of help from all of my teammates figuring out campus.”

Weber said it’s much colder in Minneapolis than he’s used to, but the overall friendliness of people in the Twin Cities somewhat makes up for it.

“I realized it immediately when I came here,” Weber said of the friendliness. “If I needed help on the street from someone totally random, they would help me right away. I never experienced that in Germany.”