On a brutally hot afternoon in Flushing Meadows, Long Island’s Noah Rubin fell to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open. Kukushkin held off a late surge from the 22-year-old Rubin to advance with a 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(3) victory.
In front of a supportive crowd on Court 7 of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Rubin fell behind an early break in the first set, and then saw his serve broken twice in the second set as Kukushkin took the commanding two-sets-to-one lead.
But in typical Rubin fashion, the native of Merrick did not give in and began to claw his way back into the match. He snagged a crucial break to win the third set, and then broke Kukushkin late in the fourth set as he attempted to serve for the match.
In the tie-breaker, however, Rubin dropped the first four points and could not climb back. A few points later, Kukushkin, who has reached the third-round in Queens three times in his career, booked his spot in the second round.
“It’s an incredible crowd; regardless of the outcome, the support is incredible,” said Rubin of playing in front of friends and family. “You feel the support and it shows how they’ve been beside me for this whole journey. I mean, my third grade teacher came out to watch today. So although it can feel lonely sometimes, I know I’m not alone. It’s 100 degrees out there, but they are right there with me. I will never be able to repay back that support they’ve given me, but I will try my best to do so on the court.”
Rubin now looks ahead to the ATP Challenger event in Chicago, which takes place next week. As he prepares for the final months of the 2018 season, he has one goal on his mind: To be in the main draw at the Australian Open in January 2019.
“Where I am at now isn’t comparable at all to last year,” said Rubin, who has had the best few months of his pro career recently, as opposed to an injury-laden 2017 summer. “I have some consistent ATP wins. I’m not one to try and prove myself, but I feel like I can compete consistently with some of the best guys on tour ... I am not where I want to be but I’m definitely showing progress.”
Kukushkin moves on to play 23rd-seeded Hyeon Chung of South Korea. Chung advanced with a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-0, 2-0(ret.) win over Ricardas Berankis.
Former champion Marin Cilic also advanced when his opponent retired, as the seventh-seeded Croat held a 7-5, 6-1, 1-1 lead over Marius Copil before the Romanian was forced to retire. Cilic plays Polish qualifier Hubert Hurkacz next.
American Tennys Sandgren notched an impressive 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Serbia’s Viktor Troicki. Sandgren, who burst onto the scene earlier this year with a quarterfinal run at the Australian Open, moves on to play the winner of the match between the sixth-seeded Novak Djokovic and Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
The number 26 seed, Richard Gasquet, Joao Sousa, Jan-Lennard Struff and Lasl Djere were the other early winners on Day Two at the U.S. Open.
In opening round action at the 2018 U.S. Open, American Tennys Sandgren notched an impressive 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Serbia’s Viktor Troicki
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.