Brendan Ruddock and Jack Hamburg brought a level of intensity to the courts at Baseline Tennis Center this past weekend that few players can match.
The two Gophers tennis players, who have both returned from injuries, were paired at the No. 2 doubles slot against Louisville and Boise State.
And they let their presence be known — and heard — with cries of jubilance after almost every point scored.
“We feed off of each other,” senior Ruddock said, “and I think it gives the team a lift when they see guys like me and Jack that get pumped up on the court.”
Ruddock and Hamburg add a wrinkle of competitiveness on the court — an element that the team seemed to lack at times in their absence.
Both have missed extended time with injuries in their tenures with the Gophers, but both are back at 100 percent this season.
Hamburg, a sophomore, injured his right foot in July 2012 and missed the fall season. He injured both feet in the fall of his freshman season as well.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Hamburg said. “It was kind of like déjà vu from my freshman year.”
Ruddock suffered knee tendinitis last season and was forced to redshirt. He returned this season, but early in the fall he discovered nerve damage in his hand that caused it to go numb during his serves.
“I had to have surgery on that, so it’s been a long road to recovery,” Ruddock said.
Gophers head coach Geoff Young said each player brings a valuable asset to the squad that will prove useful.
“Those are two guys that are going to be huge in our lineup down the road this season,” he said.
Young said he was impressed with Ruddock’s No. 5 singles win against Louisville in a match that spanned more than three hours. The match clinched the Gophers’ 4-3 win against the Cardinals.
Despite being at 100 percent, Ruddock and Hamburg said there are nuances of their games that still have room for improvement this season.
Ruddock said he needs to improve his patience, and Hamburg said he needs to improve his fitness.
Young said he wants to find a way to use aspects of Hamburg’s athleticism in matches.
“He’s a good player, but he’s going to be a great player for us,” Young said of Hamburg. “He just needs more matches and reps to figure things out.”
In some sports, an injury can provide a silver lining by giving players an opportunity to watch and learn from others. But Hamburg said tennis isn’t like that in the slightest.
“That’s why it’s so tough to be out,” he said. “It helps to see from an outside perspective … but there is nothing like playing on the court.”