Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Noah Rubin is One-And-Done at U.S. Open, and Could Be at Wake Forest, Too
NEW YORK –– Long Island’s Noah Rubin was one-and-done in his first U.S. Open, and he could be one-and-done at Wake Forest, too.
Rubin, the 18-year-old from Rockville Centre, N.Y., who received a wildcard into the Open after winning the USTA boys’ national championship, was excused quickly by Federico Delbonis on a hot and steamy Court 13 on Tuesday, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.
The slight Rubin, who measures 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, was broken twice in the opening set to fall behind 3-0 and staged a minor comeback in the first set before being swept away by the bigger, stronger, more consistent left-handed Argentinian.
“I learned that I can definitely compete with these guys at the best level, definitely things to learn” said Rubin, who trains at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randalls Island. “Fitness is one, I mean, nerves came into play a little bit also. So fitness can definitely be at a higher level, but I can playing with these guys on any given day. We’ll see how I improve.”
The crowd on Court 13 was overwhelmingly pro-Rubin, as many of his family and friends made the short commute to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for his Grand Slam debut. His parents, Eric and Melanie, were both on hand, as were his grandparents, sister and family friends like Mark Lewinter, who rooted Rubin on despite the brutal heat.
“Yeah, it was nice,” Rubin said of the crowd. “Pumps me up every once in a while, but I’m still out there just to give it all. Nothing is going to change whether it is one person or a thousand people I know.”
Rubin will stick around the Open to play doubles with his buddy Stefan Kozlov but then he will head to his freshman year at Wake Forest. He missed the first day of classes Tuesday because of his obligations in Queens.
Asked what classes he was taking (and missing), Rubin said, “I’m taking art history, writing, astrology… Astronomy, sorry. And intro to Judaism.”
“When we were at orientation last week, he emailed all his professors and said, ‘I might be missing a little bit of class and this is the reason why, I’ll be playing in the men’s U.S. Open,'” his mother, Melanie, said. “He asked them for the syllabus, we bought his books and they were all very accomodating. They said, ‘We’ll catch you up, don’t worry about it now.”
Just as he was one-and-done in Queens, Rubin could be one-and-done at Wake Forest. He previously told SNY.tv the ideal situation would be for him to play well enough at Wake that he could turn pro after his freshman year. (He remains an amateur because he’s not taking any prize money at the Open.)
Yet his mom said it was possible her son could spend more than one year in college.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” she said. “In his head right now, he’s thinking maybe a year or two years, but absolutely it would be foolish and premature to say, ‘I’m going to stop at such-and-such a time.’ Let’s see how he grows as a person, let’s see how he grows academically, let’s see the friendships he creates and let’s see how he grows his tennis. His focus is his tennis and the conditioning and strength people there are going to be working very hard with him.”
Melanie said the blowout loss to Delbonis wouldn’t necessarily cause him to stay longer in college.
“I don’t think any one match determines anything,” she said. “It’s premature to say and let’s see how things pan out, but certainly to be open to either way happening is prudent.”
No American man has won a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick won the Open in 2003 and no American man has reached the quarterfinals of a Major since 2011.
That span has coincided with the rise of the “Big 4” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who have combined to win 36 of the last 38 Majors.
By contrast, from 1974-84, Americans Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe won the Open in nine of 11 years.
From 1993-03, Americans Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Roddick took the Flushing Meadows crown seven of 11 times.
John Isner, the highest-ranked American in the world at No. 15, seemed defensive when asked questions about guys like Rubin and the future of American tennis.
“I try not to focus on some of the negative things that people say about American tennis,” Isner said. “I know I get the brunt of it a lot, because…if I win and play well it’s because I have a big serve and I can hit my forehand pretty well and that’s it. But if I lose, it’s only because that’s all I can do. So, I mean, sometimes I feel like I can’t win no matter what.
Both McEnroe, Rubin’s mentor, and Isner, who played college tennis at Georgia, believe spending time in college will be good for Rubin and other young Americans.
“You know, the way the men’s game is now, you don’t have any 18, 19 year olds doing really great things on the tour,” Isner said after advancing to the second round over fellow American Marcos Giron in straight sets. “So as far as the men’s game is, it takes a little bit more time to develop. I think college is a good way to do that.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.