Taking First Career Steps on a Path Set by McEnroe

Photo Credit: Barton Silverman/The New York Times | JMTAer Noah Rubin

Photo Credit: Barton Silverman/The New York Times | JMTAer Noah Rubin

“It would certainly be a stretch to call Noah Rubin a work-in-progress from the John McEnroe mold. He is not left-handed and does not play serve-and-volley tennis in an era of baseline slugging. He doesn’t throw on-court tantrums, or at least did not lose it like McEnroe even once during his first-round junior boys’ match Tuesday at the United States Open.

Then again, there was nothing much to vent about as Rubin, 17, cruised past his German opponent, Hannes Wagner, 6-3, 6-0, for his first singles victory at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It may have been the second-most significant victory of Rubin’s embryonic career after his victory over McEnroe, the seven-time Grand Slam tournament winner.

“We played four sets and I might have gotten two or three games off him,” Rubin said of McEnroe, who is something of a mentor. “And then I got him, 7-6, and that’s it. I think he’s not playing me anymore.”

He delivered the punch line with a nice touch of sheepishness and timing. So maybe he does have something in common with McEnroe, the sardonic voice of American tennis, in addition to having to compensate for his lack of size and power with an impressive blend of quickness and shot making.

Rubin is from Long Island, currently Rockville Centre, and a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. When McEnroe launched his partnership with the Sportime Randall’s Island Tennis Center in 2010, he said he wanted to challenge the industry orthodoxy that called for full immersion in the sport from preadolescence on.

McEnroe said he grew up playing other sports and had a relatively normal school and social life “to keep myself sane.” His on-court behavior may have contradicted that claim, but he contended that 21st century young players could still succeed in the sport without becoming a ward of a sun-splashed tennis academy.”

Click here to read the full article by Harvey Araton on nytimes.com