Noah Rubin's most excellent summer continues.
The 18-year-old from Rockville Centre won the USTA Boys 18 national championship Sunday, following his surprising and impressive victory in the Wimbledon juniors in early July.
Rubin defeated defending champion Collin Altamirano in straight sets in the five-set final, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to earn a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open main draw. On Saturday, Rubin partnered with Stefan Kozlov to win the Boys doubles title, giving them a wild card into the Open doubles draw. The Open begins Aug. 25 at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
Sunday's victory highlighted all the strengths of Rubin's game -- speed, determination, court strategy.
"He has been so focused, really focused, and that is his strength," his father and co-coach, Eric Rubin, said afterward. "He has wonderful athleticism, but more than anything, it's what's between his ears."
Rubin trains at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randalls Island, and his coach there, Lawrence Kleger, echoed his father's analyis.
"Noah has the inner belief, the inner strength, the inner competitive drive," Kleger said. "He's got the biggest heart. He just puts so much into being the best he can, and it's paying off this summer. He earned this."
At 5-9, 150 pounds, Rubin doesn't exactly overpower opponents, and in the era of the 125-mph serve, his isn't a bullet. But variety, placement and the ability to reach back for a reasonably big one once in awhile kept Altamirano off balance. That, combined with his crafty construction of points and the patience to play them out, has made him a two-time champion this summer.
"My serve has been a major factor, my consistency has been a major factor and my mental game has been a major factor," Rubin said in a phone interview as he was being driven to the airport to return to New York. "I've had great people around me, day in and day out."
Altamirano was frustrated by Rubin's consistency and his ability to take advantage of his court position and a crosscourt breeze.
But in the third set, after Altamirano lost his serve to open it, there was a thin ray of light for him. Rubin was up 2-0 and had a sitter at the net to put away for another break and a 3-0 lead. But he hit it out, Altamirano held serve, broke Rubin in the next game and held his own serve again to go up 3-2. It was the first time in the match he had led in a set.
But Rubin's confidence wasn't shaken. "He still had a long way to go to win three sets," Rubin said. "I knew I was playing well and just had to keep doing what I was doing."
He won the next four games to take the match and earn the invitation into the Open.
Rubin said it also earned him a special text message, from John McEnroe. "He just gave me a big congratulations."