On the tiny island of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific off the northeast coast of Australia, Noah Rubin got a new start to his tennis career on Saturday a long way from his home in Merrick.
Rubin won the BNP Paribas International, a Challenger Tournament that is part of the ATP World Tour, defeating fellow American and the tournament’s second seed Taylor Fritz, 7-5, 6-4, in the final at Noumea.
Though a small tournament, it was a major accomplishment for Rubin, who has battled two significant injuries over the last two years, a rolled ankle in June of 2016 and a sprained right wrist in April of 2017 that cost him about 10 months of meaningful competition and training.
Saturday, all the hard work he put into his return came to fruition with a very well put together victory.
“It was a well-thought out, disciplined, controlled and at the same time highly energetic match,” said his father Eric, his coach since childhood. “It was a highly energetic Noah Rubin.”
“It’s been very hard coming back from a five-month injury. It’s his second five-month injury in two years,” said his mother Melanie. “Physically and emotionally coming back to start the year off this way, I’m just thrilled for him.”
Rubin, only 21, is now officially training under the auspices of the USTA and spent much of December at the new USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Florida. His lead coach is Carlos Benatsky.
“Carlos has done an amazing job with him,” said his father. “He brought a new game [to this tournament] that is much more disciplined, much more controlled. I think this tournament has shown him he can wait for it, wait for it, wait for his chances.”
In the championship match, he was in control most of the way, especially after holding serve at 2-3, 0-40 in the first set. Saving those three break points seemed to set him up for the rest of the afternoon, especially when his service level dropped in the second set. He compensated with his speed, groundstrokes and well-constructed points.
Rubin now moves on to Melbourne, Australia, and the Australian Open qualifier that begins on Wednesday. Rubin, the 2014 junior Wimbledon champion and the 2014 USTA national boys champion, has had his greatest success as a pro halfway around the world. “We joke that he has a great affinity for the Pacific,” said his father.
At the 2016 Australian he won a first-round match, then last January got through three tough qualifying matches to make the main draw. He defeated Bjorn Fratangelo in the first round, setting up a meeting with the all-time king of tennis, Roger Federer. He lost in three highly competitive sets.
“I was very impressed by Noah,” said Federer after that match. “I thought he played really well. I feel like he’s going to have a great, consistent career. The question now is how far can he go.”
With a healthy body and confident mind after this tournament win, Rubin’s prospects seem significantly better. Long Islanders will get to see him in February when he plays in the inaugural New York Open at Nassau Coliseum, a tournament that features top American players John Isner and Sam Querrey.
“I think people will look at him now and say Noah Rubin is back; he’s the junior Wimbledon champion, he’s the USTA national junior champion,” said his father on Saturday.
It might only be a Challenger event (and he’s won two previous titles on that tour), but this is a championship that could launch a stellar season on the ATP Tour.