Bonin set for NCAA finale

Senior Rok Bonin, whose identical twin also plays tennis, will lead the Gophers into the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota senior Rok Bonin returns a shot against Boise State on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Jaak Jensen, Daily File Photo

Minnesota senior Rok Bonin returns a shot against Boise State on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at the Baseline Tennis Center.

by Dane Mizutani

Minnesota head coach Geoff Young couldn’t even distinguish his current No. 1 singles player, Rok Bonin, at first sight.

Bonin, the stud senior on the Gophers roster, has an identical twin brother, Enej, who Young also recruited.

“I couldn’t tell who was who at the time,” Young chuckled. “I know I knew both their names, but even when the visit ended I couldn’t tell them apart.”

Young has gotten familiar with Rok Bonin since then — and for a good reason.

Bonin is the top singles player on Minnesota’s roster and the only singles player on the team to earn a bid to the NCAA singles tournament May 22-27.

His brother is the No. 1 singles player for the University of Denver and will also compete in late May in the NCAA singles tournament.

“We’re still really competitive,” Rok Bonin said. “We both performed well with our teams throughout our careers, and it was fun to watch that.”

He said he and his brother played against each other often as kids growing up in Slovenia, but he has never faced his brother at the collegiate level. He said he knows it would be a competitive match because it always has been.

“There was never a clear winner between us,” Bonin said. “I’d win some matches. He’d win some matches. We were pretty even growing up.”

They’ve remained even through college, which leaves many wondering how much potential they would have had on the same team.

But that option was never in the cards.

“They were not really tied up with looking to go to the same school,” Young said. “They both came on campus for a visit, and Rok really liked the school and was really impressed with the facilities. I think that sold it for him.”

Bonin said he was impressed with the school, but he remembered his brother wasn’t necessarily in the same boat.

“He really wanted to check other schools out and visit other coaches … but I knew what I wanted,” Bonin said.

Bonin has steadily improved since he committed to Minnesota and said he knows he made the right choice.

As the only senior on the squad, he has emerged as a definite leader on the team, though he doesn’t admit it.

“We don’t have any captains, and I think the leadership role is shared by mostly everyone,” he said. “I had the best results this season, but I don’t think I had a specific role as the leader.”

His coach said Bonin has been the backbone of the team this season.

The Gophers will rely on him against tough competition in the NCAA tournament.

Bonin’s playing career will end soon, but he will return to the Gophers next season as a volunteer assistant coach.

“I’m proud of my senior year and everything I accomplished, but I would like to do more,” he said. “I wish I had another year, but I guess in a way I kind of do.”