Last month, 20-year-old Noah Rubin, of Merrick, lost his second-round match in the Australian Open to none other than Roger Federer, who was on his way to his 18th Grand Slam singles championship. Shortly afterward, Rubin earned his second career pro title in the Association of Tennis Professionals’ Challenger Tour stop in Launceston, Tasmania, defeating fellow American Mitchell Krueger in the finals.
On Feb. 17, Rubin was a guest speaker at Covert Elementary School in Rockville Centre, where his mother, Melanie Rubin, is a special-education teacher. When a student asked him if anything had held him back in his tennis career, Rubin gave the fourth- and fifth-graders some advice on reaching their goals.
“You’re always going to doubt yourself,” he said. “But no matter what, you have to remember why you started [pursuing them] in the first place.”
He opened the floor to the next question, and a student shouted, “Do you play video games?”
Rubin grinned, and asked the group, “Who here likes FIFA?” referring the popular soccer video games. Hands shot up.
The Herald caught up with the ATP’s 163rd ranked player to ask about his match with Federer, his goals for this year and the landscape of American men’s tennis.
“I try to rewatch the match to take most of what I can away from it,” he said of his 7-5, 6-3, 7-6, two-hours-plus loss to Federer. Rubin added that Federer complimented him on his performance. “That really felt good coming from the greatest tennis player of all time,” Rubin said.
But, he added, “Just because I’ve done so much at a young age doesn’t mean there’s not someone working harder. And that keeps me going.”
That sort of perseverance pushed Rubin in Tasmania, where he beat his friend Krueger. “We have 15 guys who are all young, between 18 and 25,” he said. “And we’re all motivating each other to get better.”
According to Rubin, it’s rare to see a player become successful on his or her own. Players like Federer make names for themselves among a group of equally talented athletes, Rubin said.
“You need that friendly competition that motivates you,” he added, saying that this drive is what is lifting American men tennis players out of obscurity and into the limelight. “As a group, we have 25 to 30 guys who are ready to make a mark on the tour.”
Rubin and his colleagues are gunning for this year’s first ATP Next Generation tournament, scheduled for November in Milan, Italy, which will feature the world’s top eight point-earners who are 21 or younger. Rubin is currently ranked third in this group.
During his question-and-answer sessions at Covert, he was asked about his next goal. He said he would like to make it into the top 100 ranking by the end of the year. But he told the Herald that he had a more modest approach when it comes to this goal.
“At this point, I want to be injury-free for this year,” he said. He was out of the tournament circuit for about three and a half months last year, “and it really took a toll physically and mentally,” he said. He added that if he could avoid an injury while continuing to progress, he would be on the right track.
Rubin’s next competitive event will be the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Indian Wells, Calif., next month.