| By Brian Coleman

From an early age, Noah Rubin had a strong connection to the sport of tennis. The Long Island native had a racquet in his hands before he could walk, and was hitting balls while still in diapers. Hailing from a family of tennis players, he was born with the sport in his blood.

“My grandfather loved the sport 10 times as much as I do and taught my father,” said Rubin. “And then he taught me and I’ve just enjoyed it ever since.”

Rubin’s passion and love for the game stems from his relationship with his dad, Eric Rubin, who would get up with a young Noah at 6:00 a.m. to feed him balls and hit. Even at such a young age, he took to the game quicker than most.

He began training at Freeport Indoor Racquet Club, where he would get up at 5:00 a.m. for lessons. Following his time there and at Carefree Racquet Club in Merrick, Rubin took his game to Sportime when he was seven-years-old.

“When you start with someone very young, you first assess them,” said Lawrence Kleger, Academy director for the John McEnroe Tennis Academy (JMTA) and Rubin’s coach since he was seven. “When you get someone who is seven-years-old, you’re not expecting that much. He had a very good base already. He worked with his dad who did a really good job. The thing that really stuck out to me was how fast he picked up all the tactical stuff I started teaching him. I would show him something once and he got it.”

Rubin’s decision to stay local and attend the Sportime academies was different than the route most top juniors take. Some choose to attend prestigious academies in warm weather climates, but Noah decided to stay home, a decision that he is thankful he made.

“I heard a lot of people say that you have to be outside all the time and around other tennis players,” recalls Rubin. “I made a commitment to work as hard as I can, and I just loved the balance of having a social life and friends outside of tennis … just enjoying those aspects which would motivate me in tennis. If I went to an academy and had to play six hours a day, went back to a dorm, and then played six hours again and doing that same thing for five years. It just wouldn’t have been beneficial at all.”

Staying home and being able to have a social life outside of tennis was crucial to Rubin, and training out of Sportime and the John McEnroe Tennis Academy was the perfect fit.

After his freshman year of high school at Bellmore JFK, his training and travel schedule became so much that him, his family and his coaches decided it would be better to be home-schooled in order to accommodate his tennis schedule.

“Home school is what you make of it,” said Rubin. “I needed to do this because I just couldn’t train and travel as much as I needed to without doing it. It’s nice to be able to do work on your own schedule with no specific due date. It just made all the training and traveling much easier.”

A few months into his homeschooling, Rubin captured the title at the Coffee Bowl in Costa Rica, a Grade 1 ITF tournament. It was one of those moments that he and his whole team realized that he might be something special, as he continued to show he could have success at every level.

“He was really professional at a very young age,” said Kleger. “That has taken him through his development as a player. If you look at every stage he has gone through, he sees the level and he’s there. If he’s not there right away, he works at it and he is there in a very short time.”

Then, in 2014, Rubin traveled to London to compete in Junior Wimbledon. As he had done throughout his junior career, the Long Island native rose to the challenge, and raised the trophy at one of the most prestigious tennis clubs in the world.

“It was incredible,” said Rubin. “Just the whole tradition behind it. Even just playing there you can feel it. You get a different feeling on the court. I truly believe I didn’t even play my best tennis throughout the tournament and I found that if I just played solid tennis, I could play with anybody.”

Rubin became the first American male to win a boys Grand Slam title since Bjorn Fratangelo won the French Open in 2011. The win put a lot of people on notice that he was at the top of the junior circuit. Instead of turning pro, however, the Long Island native decided to attend college. His decision came down to either Wake Forest or Virginia, and Noah ended up a Demon Deacon.

“We just felt that the coaching staff had my best interest in mind,” said Rubin. “It was a safe environment, a small campus and it had a personal feel to it. I felt that the coaches, Tony Bresky, Alex Emery and Jeremy Feldman, were there for me. If I needed them at 5:00 a.m. to ask them something, they would be there. It was just great to know that I could trust the coaching. I don’t regret my decision at all.”

Rubin enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign at Wake Forest this past season, being named Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year and ACC Freshman of the Year, the first time anybody has done that in the Conference. He led the Demon Deacons to the ACC Championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, just the third time the program has gotten there. He also reached the finals of the NCAA Singles Championships before falling to Virginia’s Ryan Shane.

Following his dominant season, Rubin decided it was time he make the leap to the professional level, and made the announcement on his Twitter account.

“After much contemplation, I have decided to turn pro. It's been an unforgettable year at Wake Forest due to the amazing people I was surrounded by,” he tweeted. “I am nervous, yet excited, for the journey I am about to embark on, but with the support of my family and friends everything is possible.”

His time at Wake Forest went a long way in his development.

“Wake Forest was a great stepping stone in my pursuit of playing professional tennis,” said Rubin. “The coaching staff helped me feel ready to take the next step. My favorite part by far was traveling with the team. There were a lot of nice people at the school, but the best friends I made were on the tennis team. You don’t get to travel as a team that often in tennis, so you just have to really enjoy those moments.”

The culture of Sportime, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy and Kleger’s coaching has been preparing him for the leap to pro status for a long time.

“If you went to Sportime back in the day, you would not see a single kid say something negative or throw a racquet without a negative reaction from Lawrence,” said Rubin. “It just wasn’t allowed. That was the culture of Sportime. To this day, I owe him everything for that because that is what being a professional is all about. If you learn it at a young age, you tend to carry it with you for your whole career.”

Rubin’s professionalism and composure has always been one of his best assets on the tennis court. Physically, he is lighting quick, going baseline to baseline and hits the ball with more power than some might expect from his stature.

While he knows his journey is just beginning, the 19-year-old already has some short-term goals in mind.

“I want to be around top-250 in about a year,” Noah said. “I just need to keep playing tennis and enjoying it like I have done my whole life and hopefully it will come naturally. But if it doesn’t, then I’ll just keep working harder.”

The people around Rubin know that he is destined for great things as they have seen the growth and progress over the course of the last decade.

“It’s been a magical journey,” said Eric Rubin. “From feeding balls to Noah at 6:00 a.m. when he was a youngster to being with Noah in the Roehampton University dorms during his junior Wimbledon run last year, it’s been a joy and honor to partake in this journey with Noah, and it’s just the start for him.”

Training at John McEnroe Tennis Academy has offered Rubin a unique perspective into the mind of a professional tennis player. McEnroe was a former world number one and is one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

“It’s a different perspective. He’s been in all sorts of situations and he knows how the top players think,” said Rubin of being able to work with McEnroe. “It’s tough sometimes because things that came natural to him don’t necessarily come natural to me. But just the way he looks at the game and thinks has helped me a lot.”

McEnroe has seen the development of Rubin over the years, and says he will be successful if he continues to do what he has done his whole life.

“Noah is going to grow and be his own man, and that is what he should be,” said McEnroe. “My best advice would be for him to go out and give his best every time he plays, as I was inspired to do by the likes of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. If he does that, and I can convince him to follow his path, he will be successful and will never have to think ‘What if?’”

Rubin will continue to train and practice at the facility he has been at for over a decade. He has become the poster child for the Academy and embodies everything they try to teach their players.

“He was basically our system. Everything we believe in coaching and building character is what he went through,” said Kleger. “As he got older, he became the perfect role model for our entire Academy. For us, having him be who he is as a person was actually more beneficial than his results. I wouldn’t take anybody over him in terms of character. He’s great at recognizing that he has a team behind him. A lot of coaches and people that have helped him along the way, and he doesn’t forget that.”

Those coaches and people will continue to be behind him as he embarks on his professional career.

“As a world-class player and an incredibly well-rounded young man, Noah personifies and affirms the JMTA philosophy of training and life,” said Ben Schlansky, managing director of Sportime Randall’s Island and JMTA. “Along the same lines, I think Sportime and JMTA have given Noah the opportunity to train at a world-class Academy without having to leave home or sacrifice his teenage years. We are pleased to continue to support Noah as he embarks on his pro career. We believe that his work ethic, his tennis IQ and his love of the game will carry him far, and are very excited to see what the future holds.”

The Long Island tennis community will be watching and rooting on Rubin as his career progresses, continuing to make local tennis aficionados proud Islandwide.

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com