| By Peter Mendelsohn
Photo Credit: Sidney Beal III

 

When local tennis prodigy Noah Rubin discovered that the inaugural New York Open would take place at NYCB LIVE home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, he was blown away.

“I came to Islanders games my whole life here.” Noah told New York Tennis Magazine.  “This is eight minutes from my home.  It’s incredible.”

Rubin, born on Long Island in 1996, was bred to be a tennis player.

When he was just a toddler, he began swinging at a tennis ball hanging on an elastic band in his family’s living room. 

By the time he was seven-years-old, he was competing against 12-year olds…and winning.  

Rubin began playing for the John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randall’s Island in 2010.  John McEnroe once dubbed Rubin “the most talented player we’ve come across”.

In 2014, at the age of 18, Rubin entered the qualifying draw for the boys’ singles tournament at Wimbledon.  He promptly won two matches to qualify for the main draw.  Then he won another six to win the whole tournament. 

After one spectacular season at Wake Forest, where Rubin was named the ACC Player of the Year, Noah turned pro in 2015.  In January of 2016, he upset Benoit Paire, the 17th seed, in the first round of the Australian Open.

But in June of 2016, Rubin suffered the first, and unfortunately not the last, freak injury of his career.  He was out for a jog when he slipped between two cracks in the pavement, badly spraining his ankle. 

He was sidelined for a couple of months, losing the momentum he had built up to that point.   

Still, the beginning of 2017 had something exciting in store for Noah. 

As a renowned junior, Rubin had gotten a chance to hit with many of the best players in the game.

“I’ve hit with some of the greats. Murray, Djokovic, Nadal; I’ve hit with all of them.” Rubin told New York Tennis Magazine.

But he’d never hit with Roger. 

Roger Federer that is.

Until last year. 

After beating Bjorn Fratangelo in five sets, Rubin faced Federer in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open. 

“It was the first time that I was on the court with him.  And that was one of the first times that I got to play a top five player, a top 10 player, one of the greatest of all time.”

Despite the apparent mismatch on paper, Rubin refused to be intimidated by the lore of Federer.  Throughout the match, he showed off his own versatile skill set.

In this point, Rubin displays his excellent defensive abilities.

Rubin Defense

Even though Noah loses the point, it’s clear that the man can fly.

Here, Rubin jumps all over Federer’s second  serve, demonstrating extraordinary power.

Rubin Forehand

Despite Rubin’s impressive showing, Federer emerged victorious in three tight sets, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3). 

After the match, Federer complimented Rubin’s style of play. 

Federer commentary on Rubin

Unfortunately, Rubin would suffer another bizarre injury a few months later.

In April 2017, while sprinting to retrieve a drop shot, he fell hard onto his right wrist. It was badly sprained, and he was sidelined from match play for four months.

Having missed such a significant period of time, Rubin wasn’t able to make the dent in the rankings that he had hoped.

An ATP Player’s ranking is based on the points that he has accumulated over the past 52 weeks.  Therefore, it’s very important for players to play a full schedule throughout the year, something that Rubin has been unable to do

“It’s been tough for these two years,” Rubin explained.  “It takes 12 months to build a ranking, and I’ve built it with five or six months.  I mean, I have ten zeroes on my ranking list.”

However, Rubin’s 2018 campaign is looking promising.

He started off the year winning a Challenger in Noumea, beating Taylor Fritz in the finals.

He celebrated the title….in style?

He followed that up with quarterfinal appearances at the Newport Beach and San Fransisco Challengers.

Then, Rubin came home to Long Island for the New York Open.  He arrived at the same venue that he’d watched so many hockey games at growing up. 

In the first round, Rubin faced former U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori.

He began the match playing confident, aggressive tennis, breaking Nishikori in Kei’s first service game to take an early 3-0 lead.  But Nishikori battled back to win the first set 7-5, and took a 5-1 lead in the second set.

Rubin won the next two games, and fought off three match points, but the deficit was simply too much to overcome.  

Nishikori closed out Rubin 6-3 in the second set. 

“It was really tough match.”  Nishikori told New York Tennis Magazine.

“He started very well, very aggressive, serving well, so I think he played a little better than me first set...He was very very tough player.”

Despite his disappointment with the loss, Rubin knew that the match had been a valuable learning experience.  

“Of course when you lose, you’re upset,” said Rubin. “But you give me a few days, and I’ll take away something great from this match, just like I took away from the Federer match.”

After taking some time to rest in his hometown, Rubin heads west to California to compete in the Indian Wells Challenger.  He then hopes to the play in the main draw at the Indian Wells Masters, where his entry into the event will depend on either making the qualifying cut off, or being given a Wild Card.

Rubin has already accumulated 132 rankings points in January and February, and only has 91 Points to defend for the rest of the calendar year.

“With not much to defend the rest of the year, I can really make some pushes,” he said.

Most importantly, Rubin hopes he can get through this year in good health. 

“If I don’t fall on my face this year, it’s a success,” Rubin joked. 

Let’s just hope there aren’t any more cracks in the pavement.

Peter Mendelsohn is a contributing writer to Long Island and New York Tennis Magazines. He is the owner of tennisdork.com.  He is currently pursuing a degree in sports journalism.  He previously spent five years as a personal injury lawyer in Toronto, Canada. He may be reached by phone at (647) 984-5509 or email at peter.r.mendelsohn@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeterMendel7