Andre Saleh isn’t sure when he started carrying a tennis racket but it’s before he can remember.
“I remember him holding tennis balls before he could walk,” his mother, Kristine Turlace-Saleh, said. “He started hitting balloons when he was 2 or 3.”
His dad, Terek Saleh remembered that “by 2 he’d been hitting balls off the back fence.”
He said Andre Saleh started competing around his Newport Beach, Calif. home and doing well when he was 7 or 8-years-old.
After doing better in for the next couple of years, Terek Saleh said Andre suffered some growth issues in his lower back. But when that healed itself, Andre was back on the court.
This upbringing has made Saleh the player he is today.
“When you hear Andre talk about his junior tennis career and experiences, it is obvious that tennis has always been an important part of his life,” assistant tennis coach Thomas Boysen said in an email.
Playing tennis came naturally to Andre. It was an easy way to keep up with his brother Dante, who played tennis at Auburn University until he graduated in 2017.
Andre said his older brother’s experience with athletic recruiting and college visits taught him and his family how to maneuver the athletic world.
The family had experience with the athletics, Terek was a pre-Olympic swimmer, but he said the world has changed since he was in college.
“I’ve always been big on the college experience,” Terek said. “I want my kids to have the college experience I didn’t have.”
Terek said he knew right away that Andre would do well at UNL.
“He had some great options,” Terek said. “But in the end it came down to coaches.”
Andre has been working with and coached by his fair share of impressive coaches throughout his life like Phil Dent and Syd Ball, but Terek agreed that the Husker tennis coaching staff is one of the best.
“Shawn and Tom are probably the most under-known coaches in the country,” he said. “They are from my view the most underrated, best coaches in the country.”
These coaches have watched Andre grow into a collegiate athlete very quickly. The team only has one upperclassmen, senior Chris Dean.
“Coach Maymi has been telling the four newcomers that they don’t really get a year to be freshmen,” assistant coach Boysen said. “That ended after the first month or so.”
Boysen said this has not been a problem for Andre.
“Andre has taken to this concept well,” he said. “He works hard, prioritizes his schoolwork and tennis above everything else, and generally gives himself a chance to get better every day.”
Andre said he has enjoyed his first semester and watching other the football team and is looking forward to competing as a Husker.
And when he does, Turiace-Saleh will be there to root him on in the “best hat on the planet” – a red hat with a large Nebraska N covered in Swarovski crystals.