After a stop and start career hampered by injuries, Noah Rubin is healthy again. And winning.
The 22-year-old from Merrick won the ATP Challenger event on clay at Tallahassee, Florida on Saturday, defeating Marc Polmans of Australia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. It was his second Challenger win of the year and comes after losing in a Futures tournament final last week.
As important as the victory was to a player ranked 252nd in the world, it gives Rubin a substantial lead in the French Open Wild Card Challenge and he will likely earn a spot in the main draw of the Grand Slam event on clay that begins at the end of May.
“This whole week he was focused, patient, calm, but at the same time energized,” said his father Eric, his lifelong coach. “He served the best he has in a long time and his down-the-line backhands were sharp.”
Eric Rubin feels the Futures event near Jacksonville the week before was key to his performance in Tallahassee. “He played there to get back to basics and the conditions were very, very tough,” Eric said. “It was rainy and the clay courts there were muddy and everyone was slipping and tripping. It took a lot of hard work, really bearing down, to get to the final.”
Rubin hadn’t played in a Futures event in nearly two years. It is a much lower level and he was the No. 1 seed by a wide margin. This coming a little more than a year after losing to Roger Federer in the second round of the Australian Open.
“I think some people were shocked to see me there, but it made sense when I was [coming back from the Marrakech tournament],” Rubin said. “I thought it would be good to get some matches in, work hard. When I left there I was ready to go this week.”
After splitting the first two sets against Polmans, Rubin had to bear down in the third, going to eight deuces to hold serve in the seventh game. In the tenth game on Polman’s serve, Rubin was up 0-40 with three championship points. He just missed converting some winners and the dogged Polmans came up with some big points. Rubin finally won the match on the sixth championship point.
He’s not allowing himself to think too much about the prospect of earning the French Open wild card even though he his leading the race for it and the competition closes next week.
“I’m nowhere in the clear for that,” said Rubin, who will play the Challenger at Savannah, Georgia this coming week. “I need to play the best I can this week to make sure I earn it.”