Each year, the world’s best 14-and-Under Juniors represent their country in a major international tennis event, Les Petits As. This prestigious tournament, held in Tarbes, France, resembles a major professional tournament, complete with television coverage, a linesman and ball boys.
The event has seen a number of its champions go on to become Grand Slam winners, including Rafael Nadal, Michael Chang, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters. What may be even more impressive than the list of champions, is the list of tennis legends that have played in this tournament, but never reached the finals: Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro, Marat Safin, Tommy Robredo and Gael Monfils, among others.
Roughly 7,000 players from 50 nations worldwide enter the pre-qualifying tournaments held across France, with that number being narrowed down to 350 for the final qualifying stage, and 64 for the final tournament. Approximately, 4,000 spectators each day attend this 10-day event.
Recently, Merrick, N.Y. native Noah Rubin made Long Island proud when he not only qualified for Les Petits As, but reached the finals of this prestigious tournament before falling to a French player in the championship match.
The USTA invited eight members of the national team born in 1996 to Boca Raton, Fla. for a playoff to send to international competitions in the 14-and-Under division. Competitors were grouped in two flights of round-robin play. The two top finishers from each flight made it to the semifinals. Noah went undefeated in the competition and was eventually given the choice between tournaments in South America or Les Petits As in France and chose the French event, the most prestigious Boys 14-and-Under tournament in the world.
The tournament was an eye-opening and memorable experience for Noah. The tournament is a major attraction in France, as it was Noah’s first trip to Europe and he said it was hard to prepare for the crowd and TV cameras that were waiting. Noah was even asked to sign autographs from the French fans.
Despite the distractions and the nerves that anyone would have(especially at 13 years old), Noah maintained his composure throughout the tournament. Even as “the enemy” while playing against two French players on their home turf, Noah's play was strong throughout the tournament. “I was well-prepared coming into the tournament by tennis coach Lawrence Kleger; my dad, who is also my coach, and conditioning coach Goran Milanovic.”
“Noah reaching the finals of Les Petits As in France, although incredibly exciting, was not that surprising,” said Lawrence Kleger, director of tennis at Sportime and Noah's tennis coach. “Two years ago in the Le Blanc Cup in Canada, a similar event to Les Petits As for players 12-and-Under, Noah won both the singles and doubles titles, and last year, he reached the semis of the Orange Bowl. Therefore, nothing he accomplishes is that surprising. Noah just seems to step up and play his best tennis when there is the most on the line.”
“This tournament has taught me that I can compete with anyone my age in the world,” said Noah of his international experience in France. “It taught me how to maintain focus and block out the crowd and distractions. I will use this experience and train even harder to get ready for my next tournament. It's hard not to smile knowing I did better than Roger Federer did at my age.”
Asked to describe the experience in three words, Noah's response: “Amazing, memorable, life-changing.”
“I watched all of Noah's matches on the live score updates on the Internet,” said Kleger. “I was emotionally exhausted after this tournament. I am so proud of Noah's accomplishments. He has worked hard to get to this point and deserves it.”