International students bring passion for tennis to UNF


International students at UNF face several challenges including embracing a new curriculum and a new culture. But there is one thing 10 UNF students don’t mind facing in the United States: the tennis court.

There are 250 international students at UNF representing 72 countries. Of those 72 countries, the players on the men’s and women’s tennis teams represent seven.

“Tennis is a different sport that has always been internationally known throughout the world,” said women’s tennis head coach Rodrigo Puebla. “The players’ main goal is to get an education just like everyone else, though.”

The women’s team consists of Ospreys from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Holland and one player from the U.S. The men’s team has players from Brazil, Argentina, Slovenia and one player from the U.S.

Even the coaches have international backgrounds as Puebla is originally from Chile and men’s head coach Igal Buberman is from Argentina.

The coaches’ nationalities might help attract players from other countries to Jacksonville, but Buberman said the main reason UNF has a lot of international players is because the international students have more of an interest in playing tennis than American students.

But their dedication must be matched by the coaches, as both said bringing in players from abroad makes their jobs as recruiters more difficult.

During recruiting season, both Puebla and Buberman spend a couple hours a day reviewing videos of international players to get a feel for their skills and abilities on the tennis court. Because of this, it’s hard for the coaches to understand what the athletes are like in person, but Buberman said it also helps to travel a lot and keep in touch with the contacts he made while playing college tennis.

“I had to bring in international players that could compete at a Division I level,” Buberman said. “We have to recruit better international players as well as top Florida kids to make UNF the powerhouse of tennis.”

They also want to win the all-conference championship, Puebla and Buberman said.

And both teams are on their way to the championship level this season with the good seasons they have had so far, the coaches said. The women’s team is 6-2, including a major 5-2 win against Stetson University. The men’s team has a record of 4-2.

“We have a winning season and a nice group of kids,” Buberman said. “We have a reputation for being a hard-working and respectful team.”

It means a lot for the international players to represent not only UNF but their home countries as well, just like with the professional tennis players, like Rafael Nedal and Roger Federer, Buberman said.

Victoria Krook, a sophomore from Sweden, said she is very proud and excited to play with such a diverse team, especially being the only athlete from Sweden.

“I love playing tennis at UNF; I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Krook said. “It’s great to work with such a good mix of girls that have a lot of fun.”

E-mail Heather Furey at [email protected].