Bonin’s career ends with first-round NCAA loss

Senior Rok Bonin was the fifth-winningest player in Gophers history.

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.

Dane Mizutani

Rok Bonin ended his Gophers tennis career Wednesday with a three-set loss in the first round of the NCAA singles tournament in Urbana, Ill.

This tournament pits the top-64 singles players in the nation against each other in a single-elimination style bracket.

Bonin, a senior for Minnesota and the No. 53 player in the nation, lost 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 to No. 19 Andreas Mies of Auburn.

Bonin said it was tough to end his career with the loss, but he said the experience also offered him an opportunity to step back and reminisce on his career.

“I was pretty disappointed and pissed after the match because it was so close,” Bonin said, “but now looking back on it, it was a great accomplishment for me to get there.”

This marked the first time in his four-year career that Bonin qualified for the NCAA singles tournament.

“It was great to reach that tournament as a senior because only the best people get to go there,” he said.

Bonin has been the backbone of the Gophers tennis squad all year. He was the unquestioned No. 1 singles player in the lineup and led with a noticeable passion on and off the court.

That sense of leadership and maturity was evident even after the close loss Wednesday, head coach Geoff Young said.

“He kept the right perspective after the match,” Young said. “I hope that he’s able to look back and see what an amazing career he’s had for our team over the last four years.”

Bonin finished his career at Minnesota with a 72-49 singles record and a 73-39 doubles record. He finished tied for fifth in program history in total wins.

Bonin struggled in the first set against Mies, but he rebounded in the second set. He jumped ahead 4-1 in the third set, but Mies closed the gap to bring the score to 4-4.

Young said the conditions on the court weren’t ideal for top-tier tennis, but he said those hindrances are part of the game of tennis.

Bonin said the wind conditions made one side of the court much more favorable to play on, which affected the result.

“I went up from 2-1 to 4-1 on the good side of the court then he came back from 4-1 to 4-3 on that same side,” Bonin said. “It was basically even after that, and he made a few more shots than I did down the stretch and it ended really close.”  

Bonin will return to the Gophers next year as a volunteer assistant coach. He said he is excited for the chance to return to the team, but he knows it won’t be the same as being a player.

“It’s hard to say just one thing we will miss the most about Rok Bonin,” Young said. “He brings a pretty big presence on those dual match days that’ll be impossible to replace.”