JMTA and SPORTIME Director of Tennis Lawrence Kleger took a few minutes from a whirlwind past few days to discuss Noah Rubin’s resounding Wimbledon Juniors title and the continued success that JMTA has experienced.
JMTA Blog: It has been a pretty remarkable spring at JMTA, between the success of some of the kids at elite tournaments, Jamie Loeb at North Carolina and now Noah’s breakthrough, what is the secret to the way the Academy is going?
Lawrence Kleger: I believe that there are no secrets in running a successful academy. It’s about dedication and hard work. Our coaching staff at JMTA is world-class, and they put in long hours and are willing to do whatever it takes to elevate our students to the next level. But if there is one area where I believe we excel it would be the positive way we challenge and motivate our athletes. We hold our students to a very high standard of attitude and effort, but we do so in an encouraging way that brings out the best in each and every player. Our Student Code of Conduct and our carefully designed curriculums provide the framework and structure for our academy’s success. And we have what no other academy has—John McEnroe—arguably the greatest competitor in the history of tennis.
JMTAB: Some people see Noah’s win as surprising, were you surprised and why or why not?
LK: To be honest, nothing that Noah accomplishes surprises me. He has won at every level including the ITF Professional Futures circuit. So while Noah winning the Wimbledon Junior Championship was a thrill, it was not a shock. That is why I am so convinced that he will be successful on the ATP Tour in the very near future. However, to be honest, I did not think that grass was Noah’s best surface. I will now have to reconsider that assessment!
JMTAB:You have always talked about the value of college; what did a year in college now mean to Jamie as a tennis player and what could it mean to Noah?
LK: I think her coach at JMTA Felix Alvarado would agree that Jamie had a spectacular Freshman year at the University of North Carolina. Aside from being on her own and gaining the maturity one gains from the college experience, Jamie was able to improve her strength, fitness, and her play under pressure. Jamie was a highly touted freshman and was the team’s best player. That came with built in pressure. Every time Jamie walked on the court, her team was counting on her to win. I think that is the kind of pressure I would like Noah to be under. And of course I would like him to have a great college experience like Jamie’s. Being away from home, being independent, and being a mature, self-sufficient adult.
JMTAB: American tennis has taken some hits recently; were you surprised at the run of several boys in the juniors at Wimbledon and what will it take to sustain such play at the professional level down the line?
LK: Obviously it was a great showing by the American juniors and hopefully we can sustain it. I know Patrick McEnroe is working very hard to see that it happens. I believe that the more the USTA and private academies and private coaches work together, the better the chances of seeing Americans regain their lost stature in the expanding world of tennis. I think that this is starting to happen and that has to be good news if we want to produce top players.
JMTAB: Who are some of the other faces we should be watching at JMTA this summer?
LK: Jessica Golovin, age 16 is already competing well at the ITF level. Sabrina Xiong, 17, should have a terrific summer at the Girls 18 Nationals. I believe Oliver Sec, 16, who has committed to UC-Santa Barbara for the fall, is ready to make a big impact on the ITF Junior Circuit in the coming months. He is 6’2”, athletic and has really improved his physicality on the court. The JMTA’s Williams sisters, Brianna and Chelsea, have been sidelined with some minor injuries, but seem to be getting healthy; and that is bad news for whomever has to play them this summer. JMTA also has some of the best 12 and under talent in the country and we are expecting some impressive results in the younger age groups at clay courts and hard courts.