Competing against players older than you can be an intimidating task for a young junior tennis player as the skills, development and sheer physical attributes can create a substantial mismatch.
But don’t tell that to eight-year-old Noah Vinbaytel, who trains under Alex Roberman at MatchPoint NYC.
Vinbaytel recently competed at the L2 Centercourt Pony Express Open in Florham Park, N.J. in the Boys 12s Singles Division, battling against kids almost four years older than him. But Vinbaytel did not let that affect him, taking out the top-two seeds on his way to the title, including second-seeded Joseph Yang, 4-1, 0-4, 10-1 in the championship match.
“Winning a 12U tournament where kids are older, I felt really good, impressed and surprised,” said Vinbaytel. “It really gave me a lot of confidence.”
“He is a fighter and is not afraid to play them,” said Roberman of Vinbaytel competing against older players. “He knows how to win and he finds a way to win. One of the biggest strengths he has is that he is a fighter both inside and out. I’ve never seen a kid at his age who loves tennis as much as he does, and is willing to fight like he does.”
Vinbyatel has been playing tennis since he was about two-years-old, and can remember when his father would toss him a foam ball in their living room as some of his earliest practices. He first started training at Mill Basin Racquet Club, a facility now run by MatchPoint NYC.
From there, he was introduced to Roberman, and this is when his game really began to take off.
“This is where my technique and understanding of the game changed,” said Vinbaytel. “Alex teaches proper strokes, positioning on the court, patience, mental toughness and attitude. All of these things put together help me win USTA tournaments.”
His success at the USTA tournaments is a direct result of the work he has put in. He originally began playing with regular-sized rackets on regular-sized courts, but went back to the Orange Ball system, playing with smaller rackets on a smaller court.
“In the beginning, he didn’t like it, but it was something we had to go through,” said Roberman. “It definitely did help him a little as he learned how to be more patient.”
Vinbaytel showed great determination, competing every weekend in Orange Ball tournaments in order to move through the system, notching six first-place finishes and three second-place finishes, and is now competing in 12s Divisions of tournaments.
“By the time he turns 11, I want him to be playing in 14s,” said Roberman.
Those sorts of expectations, and the willingness to meet them, has turned Vinbaytel into a top junior.
The next step for Vinbaytel is to get a little stronger and build up his strength, which will allow him to compete more consistently against older players.
“It started with fundamentals: Technique, grip, placement, movement, footwork, etc.,” Roberman said of the things the two worked on originally. “In the next year or two, we are trying to build up the muscles around his skinny bones and make him stronger because the 12-year-olds are twice his size right now.”
Vinbaytel has come a long way since his hitting foam balls with his father, and with the coaching guidance of Coach Roberman and the crew at MatchPoint, his game is only going to continue to grow in the years to come.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org