Change of latitude doesn’t affect Haug’s attitude

Aaron Blake

In his collegiate career, Thomas Haug moved thousands of miles from home, endured a knee injury and has been forced to adjust how he plays the game he loves. None of these things can take away his enthusiastic demeanor, though.

The Gophers men’s tennis team is looking for a return to the glory days of the early 90s when it won four consecutive Big Ten titles. Through the skills and zeal of players like junior captain Haug, Minnesota’s chances are improving.

“I’ve known him for three years…he just has a lot of energy,” former teammate Ed Marques said. “Off the court, he’s the team leader. For the past four years, there really hasn’t been a leader. He gets everybody going and everybody fired up and people respect him for that.”

“He has a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of positive energy. It’s nice to be around a guy like that,” coach David Geatz added.

Haug came to the United States in 1999 after being recruited in his homeland of Switzerland.

In his first year, Haug won Big Ten freshman of the year honors by going 9-1 in conference play. This year, he begins the season ranked 51st nationally.

Adversity struck, though, last season during winter vacation. Haug was playing tennis in Switzerland and tore his meniscus, a ligament in the right knee.

“I heard a pop in my knee and I knew right away that it was serious,” Haug said.

Five months and one medical redshirt later, Haug was back on the court preparing for this season.

“Coach (Geatz) thinks it happened when I was skiing,” he said. “I still think he doesn’t believe me.”

Haug’s battle back from injury required the same type of attitude he displayed on his initial journey to the United States.

Haug came to the United States alone and was forced to adjust without his family and friends to help him.

“It took me two or three months to learn the language,” Haug said. “It takes a lot more time to study in a different language.”

But Haug has adapted well to American life. He enjoys spending time in the United States and says he is having a lot of fun.

Haug returns home to Switzerland every summer and winter break. He plays a lot of tennis during the summer and skis on the Swiss Alps during winter break. Haug won’t be seen at any local ski resorts, though.

Asked whether he has tried skiing in Minnesota, Haug said, “No. There is no comparison to the Swiss Alps.”

And there’s no place like home. Haug misses Switzerland, his family, his friends and his dog, Peri.

Teammate Steve Solberg, one of Haug’s best friends, has gradually become closer to Haug over the past three years.

“When I first talked to him, I thought he was a nice guy,” Solberg said. “It was a new kind of relationship because he’s foreign. It was a different perspective.”

Adjusting to new tennis courts was also a challenge for Haug. Whereas the majority of courts in the United States are hard, Haug was used to a slower-paced clay court game in Switzerland.

“Here you have to adjust your game style to the hard court, which means you’ve got to play more aggressive,” Haug said.

The team looks to be very competitive on the hard court this year. The goals are to unseat Illinois as the Big Ten’s best and to capture a NCAA championship this season.

Individually, Haug would like to play professionally for several years after he’s done with school and then go back to Switzerland.

 

Aaron Blake welcomes comments at [email protected]