Causing a racquet
Despite language barrier, Kohlloeffel thrives at UCLA
Posted: Tuesday May 30, 2006 11:04AM; Updated: Tuesday May 30, 2006 3:29PM
The sandwich shop was the hardest.
At delis in Los Angeles, Ben Kohlloeffel had options that presented crash courses in English unlike the lessons he'd known back home in Germany.
"They'd say, do you want pickles?'' Kohlloeffel said. "I didn't know what pickles were. In Germany, pickles are essiggurke. You feel bad. There are people behind you in line and you don't want to be like, 'What is that?' Sometimes I'd just nod and get whatever it was. I mean, it's food. You can eat it.''
In class, Kohlloelffel would carry a notebook and fill it with words he didn't know so he could look them up later. Fortunately, the economics professors at UCLA tend to talk slow when they explain things.
On the tennis court, though, Kohlloelffel felt at home right away. And with the way he played, he didn't need to do much talking.
After redshirting in 2003-04, Kohlloeffel stepped right in last fall and became the first Bruin to win the singles title at the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. While earning All-America honors in singles, he won six straight matches to lead UCLA to its first national team championship. On Monday, he became UCLA's first NCAA men's singles champion in 31 years.
"He's been a great leader for us,'' said UCLA tennis coach Billy Martin. "He's so unselfish and so team-oriented, I've actually had to make it a priority for him to focus on the individual title.''
For most players, such a resume would look like a pretty good stepping stone to a pro tennis career, but the 24-year-old Kohlloeffel isn't in a hurry to leave Westwood after his junior season. "Time is not on my side,'' he said. "Once I graduate, I'll be 26 and I'll start at zero [in the] ATP ranking. It takes time to work your way up and just because you win the NCAAs doesn't mean you are top 100 in a year."