Reprinted from Jewish News Online (www.jewishnews.co.uk)
Noah Rubin, an 18-year-old from Rockville Centre, N.Y., clinched the boy’s singles tennis title at Wimbledon tennis tournament on Sunday afternoon, July 6. Ranked 539 in the world, Rubin took the title after besting his compatriot – and good friend – Stefan Kozlov in a thrilling three-set match (6-4, 4-6, 6-3). It was the first Grand Slam final for Rubin, who he described his moment of victory as ‘almost surreal’. He embraced Kozlov at the net, and his father – who was weeping – courtside.
“It’s almost surreal to be called a Wimbledon champion, hopefully it will kick in over the next few days. It’s just great to be here in front of you all, but right now I just don’t want to cramp in front of you guys!” said Rubin following his epic win.
“Coming into this tournament, I didn’t expect much, I just wanted to get out here and enjoy myself. I haven’t had the greatest results in the past as people know, this is one of my final junior tournaments, so it’s nice to have this under my belt. I’ll always remember this time and will hopefully be back in the seniors shortly.”
With his father by his side, Rubin shared his special moment with his family back home. “I’ve been in touch with my grandparents, my coach, my girlfriend, my mom,” he reported.
A student at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy on New York’s Randall’s Island, he also received several texts from tennis legend John McEnroe. “It’s good to hear from him, I mean, he is John McEnroe.”
Having taken the first set in little over half an hour, the second set proved to be a rollercoaster of an affair. Falling 0-2 behind early on, he then broke back twice to find himself serving for a 4-2 lead, only to see Kozlov show his battling skills, before tying the match up. The third and final set was tied at 3-3 when Rubin broke serve. He then held his serve to move ahead 5-3, before breaking again to win the match 6-3.
“I had my opportunities in the second and got the early break, but Stefan is obviously a very good competitor, he’s a very good player, I just had to keep focused and keep it going,” he said in assessing the match. “I kind of laid off the gas a little bit, but thank God, got back into the match in the third. I then got the mid-set break, and kept holding and holding, so it was good.”
Enjoying the surroundings he was playing, he noted, “I didn’t expect Court 1 to be that packed. I actually thought nobody was going to come out to the match, but that wasn’t the case. They were all very enthusiastic to be out there and the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
Rubin’s win was all the more remarkable given that he came into the tournament as a qualifier, and had to come through a series of qualifiers just to make it into the first round proper. But when asked if he felt he could be a Wimbledon winner beforehand, he said: “Well, nothing said I couldn’t be here. I believe in my competitiveness, my mental capability, and speed so I don’t see why not. …
But I wasn’t thinking ahead to this – not at all.”
His success, he said, was all a matter of attitude, coupled with his experiences over the past year.
“When looking back as to what I’ve learned from myself, it’s just to believe in myself and get out there and never give up. Believe that I could basically do anything I want if I really put my mind to it and to truly believe that every time I step on the court, I’m going to win that match,” he said, adding, “I’ve just been out here for so long now. Besides the Australian, it’s been my third year at all the slams. I think I know what it takes just on and off the court to be professional and take care of business and do what I need to do to give myself the best chance to win.”
When asked how it felt to play against a close friend, Rubin said, “We don’t really play against each other too often. We’ve known each other for so long now and both wanted it. We were never going to be all in each other’s faces at all or stuff like that. We just know each other well and at the end, it was just a couple hugs and we’re all better.”
The pair went round the court together at the end, draped in the American flag. “Stefan brought the flag as I was holding the trophy,” said Rubin. “He said, ‘I have a flag, I have a flag’. I was like, dig it out it’s been a long time since there’s been an all-American final. And when we were there at the end holding it, I was like ‘this is pretty special’. Hopefully we’ll keep rising together and none of us will fall off, and as a group we’ll get to the top and show the results America wants.”
Next up for Rubin: “I get home and I have a week off before I have a Future – the lowest level of men’s professional tennis tournaments – in America in Godfrey, the atmosphere there will be a little different, and then I’m off to Kalamazoo.
Next up for Rubin is college.
“I’m going to college for a year,” he said, adding, “You can play seven pro tournaments which fit into the schedule. The top players are older now – the McEnroe/Becker era has changed. There are no more Nadal’s coming in at 17-years-old and winning grand slams. So I think a year at college can only be a positive thing. A safety net almost.”