Feb. 9, 2005
Benjamin Kohlloeffel, from Herne, Germany is currently the No. 8-ranked player in the nation. After waiting a year to gain his eligibility, he as exploded onto the collegiate tennis scene, posting a 25-3 overall record, including an 8-0 mark in dual matches.
Benjamin Kohlloeffel didn't have much of a choice really. After all, at four years old, he couldn't exactly stay at home alone when his parents, both avid tennis players, would head out to the local club. Like most children his age, Kohlloeffel's ambitions were more about passing the time than becoming a top-flight tennis player.
"I just grabbed a racket and started to play," says Kohlloeffel looking back on his introduction to the sport.
Before long, Kohlloeffel's trips to the club became more frequent and the more he played, the more he realized he possessed a natural talent for the game. Although he quickly progressed through the club, region and state levels - the natural succession for young tennis players in Germany - winning tournaments was not his main focus.
"I mostly did it as a hobby and for fun, even though others (kids his age) were taking it more seriously," he says.
Like most young athletes, he had to dedicate a great deal of time to practicing and competing. His parents played a big role in his development and he'll be the first to comment on how lucky and grateful he is to have such a supporting family.
"It's pretty amazing how much time they spent on me," says Kohlloeffel. "They never forced me and as long as I was having fun, they would keep helping me."
His parents support coupled with his desire to succeed soon paid off, as he won the German National Junior title in the Under-14 Division. It is one of his most memorable victories still to this day because, "it felt good to be the best player in my country." From that moment on, he established himself as one of the top-ranked juniors in Germany.
Although he enjoyed tremendous success at the junior level, he never really gave much thought to playing college tennis in the U.S. After all, coming from Herne, a town of about 180,000, to the metropolis of Los Angeles was quite and adjustment on many levels.
"I was never really into playing in America, "admits Kohlloeffel. "Everything is so much different - the language, the social atmosphere, the playing surface (he grew up on clay). The practices are less technical, however there are better people to practice with. The conditions to study and play tennis (in America) seemed really good because it is something that most Europeans cannot do."
One difference Kohlloeffel has learned to embrace has been the atmosphere of playing on a team. Despite the added pressure in dual matches, "I get more stressed out because I don't want to lose," he finds it more fun playing when he has great players there to push him and do well. He first noticed the difference when the dual-match season began.
"The individual matches were okay, but it's just the same as any other tournament," says Kohlloeffel referring to most of the fall competitions. "When the team matches began, it became intense. Suddenly I have everyone screaming for me from each side. It kind of made me stressed out, but it's nice to know that people pay attention and care about what we do".
Kohlloeffel is currently undecided on what he wants to do when he graduates and is more intent on focusing on short-term goals like winning a national team championship. This even takes priority over him winning an NCAA Individual title, something he is more than capable of achieving.
Sarah Gregg is a senior on the UCLA women's tennis team. Check back for more articles by her on uclabruins.com