Though they are at different points on the tennis spectrum, it has been a busy summer for Novak Djokovic and Noah Rubin.
Rubin, the 18-year-old from Rockville Centre, won the Wimbledon juniors in July and followed it with the USTA boys 18 title this month, which earned him a wild card into the U.S. Open. He played, and lost, his first regular ATP Tour match on Sunday.
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Djokovic regained the world's top ranking by winning at Wimbledon in July and married girlfriend Jelena Ristic days later.
Djokovic and Rubin faced each other Thursday night in a charity exhibition at Sportime Stadium on Randalls Island at the John McEnroe Tennis Project Benefit. Djokovic won 8-5 in a single pro set, and the match provided valuable experience for Rubin ahead of next week's U.S. Open, his first career Grand Slam event in which his opening opponent will be Federico Delbonis.
"It's Novak Djokovic," Rubin said before the match, adding his plan was to "just [go] out there and see what I got [and] enjoy the moment."
Rubin has long trained at the McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randalls Island, making him a shining light for McEnroe in his efforts to grow the sport in the New York area. McEnroe's charity is aimed at expanding the sport in the region and providing greater access to tennis for local players.
"I think the last male player that made it out of New York was my brother and that was the mid-80s," McEnroe said. "It's something I want to turn around."
Rubin, who will play collegiate tennis at Wake Forest and begin class there in the fall, lost in a third-set tiebreak in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open on Sunday.
His next ATP Tour event will be the U.S. Open. "It's going to be in my backyard, so I'm going be ready to get out there," Rubin said.
As Rubin makes his Open debut, Djokovic will look to win the event for the second time and capture his eighth Grand Slam title.
The 27-year-old Serbian said his victory at Flushing Meadows in 2011 was "one of the biggest achievements" of his career, but to win again, he said he will need to kick off some rust.
"I was a bit slow, I have to say, to get [back] into competition mode," he said of his play at tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati. He lost in the third round at both events. "It was very unique, the five, six weeks that I had with the wedding and, of course, winning Wimbledon and getting back to No. 1 in the world. I'm happy with where I am in my life, [but] when I got back to play, I was a little bit flat."