Noah Rubin of Wake Forest Men’s Tennis Turns Pro – One Year Later

Checking in again from the ITF Pro Circuit / USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series $25K Futures of Winston-Salem. One of the players in last year’s tournament was Noah Rubin.

Rubin was coming off a runner-up finish in the NCAA Division I men’s tennis tournament. He won a round then lost to the 3-seed and eventual finalist Tennys Sandgren 7-5, 6-3. He went home to New York and announced he was turning pro a couple of days later.

Rubin Turns Pro Twitter

As the racket technician for Wake Forest University’s men’s tennis team, a lot of people asked me last year whether I thought Rubin was making a good decision in leaving school to become a professional tennis player after his freshman year.

I told them I didn’t really know, because my expertise is in tennis equipment not the ins-and-outs of professional tennis. But someone more knowledgeable than me said that if Rubin was in the Top 200 of the ATP rankings in a year’s time he would have made a good decision.

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As it turns out, Rubin won the Charlottesville Challenger that fall and finished the year with an ATP ranking of 340 (up from #591 at the end of 2014).

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He also earned a main draw wild card into the Australian Open and won his first round match over top 20 player Benoit Paire. His current ATP ranking is #166. So, by that measure, he made a good decision.

Rubin ATP Tour

In addition to working with the men’s tennis team, I am also (or, rather, principally) a sociology professor at Wake Forest University. As a faculty member, my goal for every student who enrolls is first for her or him to learn and become a better person, and then to get a job doing something they have a passion for and which makes the world a better place.

By these measures, as far as I can tell from following him on social media, Noah Rubin is succeeding as well. I am happy to have him out in the world representing Wake Forest University and Wake Forest men’s tennis.

Rubin Rodin Museum

Photo of Noah Rubin at the Rodin Museum in France on loan from @noahrubin33 Instagram account

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2015 Year in Review – Big Time Tennis

Our 8th year in business, 2015 was another great year for Big Time Tennis, many thanks to our individual customers, the Wake Forest University men’s and club tennis teams, and opportunities to string at some big tournaments.

Stringer of the Year Plaque

The year started in a very special way, with David being named Tennis Industry Magazine’s “Stringer of the Year” for 2014. To make it even more special, Wake Forest tennis alum David Hopkins accepted the award on David’s behalf.

Hopkins Accepts SOY Plaque

Although we did not match our record number of rackets (reached in 2013), we nearly crossed the 2,000 threshold thanks to steady work form the Wake Forest men’s team (almost 900 rackets) and the opportunity to string some new tournaments:

  • 2015: 1,974
  • 2014: 1,759
  • 2013: 2,149
  • 2012: 1,467
  • 2011: 1,265
  • 2010: 1,171
  • 2009:   750
  • 2008:   251

The Wake Forest men had an outstanding year, and I (David) was excited to be a part of it, including spending nearly two rainy weeks in Waco, Texas at Baylor University working on the MOZI Tennis stringing team.

Mozi Tennis

It was fun to work the tournament on site because I could also see Wake Forest play in the Sweet Sixteen (losing to TCU, alas) and Noah Rubin make his run to the men’s singles final.

WF Team at Baylor Stadium

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

Almost immediately after getting home from Waco, the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem began. I had never strung a Pro Circuit event, and I found it very fascinating, posting a number of blogs about it. Of course we treat all players equally in the stringing room, but with only one customer playing in the final, I was able to support Matija Pecotic, who brought home the championship trophy.

Pecotic

Thanks again to MOZI Tennis, I had the chance to string at the ATP World Tour/WTA Tour CitiOpen in Washington, DC. A highlight was having the chance to string one more racket for the Australian stalwart player and Grand Slam Champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt Racket

The Yamane family made a big contribution to the MOZI Tennis stringing team at our home town Winston-Salem Open. We even got to meet “The Magician,” Fabrice Santoro who was there coaching. Tournament stringing can be exhausting and stressful, but it is made much easier when you have a great boss, Dustin Tankersley, and get to work with your loved ones.

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A final highlight of the year was having the opportunity to string rackets for all of the members of the Mount Tabor High School Girls Tennis Team. I am thankful that their coach, Taylor McDaniel, appreciates the importance of strings to performance. It is the only part of the racket that is supposed to touch the ball after all!

Mount Tabor Rackets

It’s hard to imagine 2016 being as great as 2015, but we are hoping to have the opportunity to exceed our own expectations.

Official Stringer for the 2015 Winston-Salem ITF Pro Circuit Futures Tournament

Even though I just got back from two weeks stringing at the NCAA tournament, I am excited to start working again as the official stringer for an ITF Pro Circuit $15K Futures event being held at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem.

ITF Pro Circuit

A 64 draw qualifying tournament will be held on May 30-31, with the 32 player main draw beginning play on June 1. There will also be a 16 team doubles tournament.

There are some 600 tournaments across 77 countries on the ITF Pro Circuit, which is the entry level of professional tennis. The same week the USA F16A Futures is held in Winston-Salem, other ITF Futures tournaments will be held in China, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Georgia, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, and Turkey.

Players in ITF Pro Circuit events earn ATP ranking points, so these events provide an opportunity for players to build up their rankings so they can jump to ATP Challenger level events and eventually the ATP World Tour. A player who wins one round in a 32 draw $15K ITF Men’s Circuit event earns 1 ATP ranking point. Two rounds = 3 points, three rounds = 8 points, 4 rounds = 15 points, and the winner receives 27 points. By comparison, at the Winston-Salem Open (ATP World Tour 250 level event), a first round winner receives 20 ranking points (more than all but the winner of a $15K futures) and the winner receives 250 points.

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Even so, these small number of points available on the ITF Men’s Circuit can make a big difference in the life of an aspiring professional. As of May 25, 2015, #1 Novak Djokovic has over 13,000 ranking points, #50 Jerzy Janowicz has 940, and #100 Marinko Matosevic has 526. Even winning a Futures even would make little difference to these players.

But consider #844 ranked Noah Rubin, who just completed his freshman year playing for Wake Forest and was recently the NCAA men’s singles finalist. He has 20 ATP ranking points. Making the semi-finals of the Winston-Salem Futures would nearly double his points and increase his ranking to by over 150 places. Winning the tournament could push him into the top 600 in the world.

As of this writing, Rubin is the 13th highest ranked player accepted into the tournament. The highest ranked acceptance is Kevin King ranked #318. A 2012 mechanical engineering graduate and two time All-American at Georgia Tech, King’s year end ranking has increased from 1,433 in 2012 to 506 in 2013 to 372 in 2014, when he won back-to-back Futures events in Mexico.

Kevin King

King is followed by former Virginia Cavelier Sanam Singh at #361, former Tennessee Volunteers Rynne Williams (#374) and Tennys Sandgren (#377), and former Kentucky Wildcat and NCAA finalist Eric Quigley at #396. The lowest ranked direct acceptance was #1091 Christopher Marquis of India.

The qualifying draw for the Winston-Salem Futures is twice as big as the main draw, giving players who do not have ATP rankings an opportunity to earn ranking points. Some names of unranked players that stood out to me on the qualifying acceptance list were Wake Forest’s Jon Ho and Maksim Kan, Northwestern’s Strong Kirchheimer, and top North Carolina juniors Anudeep Kodali and Nick Stachowiak.

Since these players are grinding it out for a few points and a few hundred dollars, I will be interesting to see how much stringing I do for players who may fall between having their stringing paid for by their parents or colleges and making enough money on tour to string as much as they would like.

Other information about this ITF Pro Circuit event and one next week at the University of Virginia, from the USTA:

The tournaments, which will create more opportunities for professional match experience on American college campuses, are being privately funded and will not be a part of the USTA Pro Circuit. As the national governing body for tennis in the U.S., the USTA applied for and secured their official tournament sanction from the International Tennis Federation.

“Having opportunities to play professionally, at all levels, is important to tennis in the United States,” said USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe. “It’s exciting that Virginia and Wake Forest are taking the initiative to stage and host these events, and we certainly hope American players take advantage of these opportunities.”

And from Wake Forest Men’s Tennis Head Coach Tony Bresky:

I’m excited to announce the addition of a $15,000 Men’s Pro Futures Event to our home facility,” Wake Forest men’s tennis coach Tony Bresky said. “We already have a great event in the Winston-Salem Open and to be able to add another professional tournament gives our players more opportunity to compete at the highest level and further development. For our guys, their focus is set on being able to play professionally after college and to be able to compete in pro events while still in school on our home courts is a great advantage.

Stringing at NCAA Division 1 Tennis Tournament in Waco, Texas, Hosted by Baylor University

I have strung rackets at the NCAA Division 1 tennis tournament on three previous occasions, in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Each time the tournament was held at the University of Georgia in Athens, so I would drive down two days before the start of the event and leave before the quarterfinals of the team competition were contested. Basically just working 3-4 of the busiest days of the event.

In Athens, I was an unofficial off-site stringer working for the team stringer for another ACC school. That meant I was holed up in a hotel miles from the University of Georgia tennis complex. In the three years I worked the event, I only saw a couple of matches — and had to pay to see those to boot.

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This year was very different. I was hired by my friend Dustin Tankersley whose company, MOZI Tennis, won the contract to be the official on-site stringer for the tournament.

Official Stringer NCAA 2015

The stringing room was in the press box of Baylor University’s softball stadium. It wasn’t an ideal location, since players and coaches didn’t know where to go for stringing, but it had plenty of windows and a nice view, which was a huge improvement over stringing in a hotel room off-site.

View of Getterman Field at Baylor NCAA 2015

From the hallway leading to the press box, we could look out over Baylor’s incredible outdoor tennis complex. We could only partially see matches on court, but we could keep track generally of what was going on court. This was especially important this week because Waco experienced a tremendous amount of rain.

Rainy Courts

Being on-site was also a particular bonus for me this year because Wake Forest’s men’s team qualified for the Sweet Sixteen, and Noah Rubin, Romain Bogaerts, Skander Mansouri, and Christian Seraphim all competed in the individual tournament. It was easy for me to sneak away from the stringing room to catch the Wake matches, including Noah Rubin’s history run to the men’s singles final.

WF Team at Baylor Stadium

A final benefit of working for Dustin was the opportunity to work alongside other stringers whose professionalism is unquestionable. Dustin is a member of the Wilson/Luxilon International Stringing Team, and has strung at the U.S. Open, Australian Open, China Open, and other major tournaments. Also on the team were two other Wilson stringing team members, Joe Heydt and Todd Mobley. Joe owns Racket Corner in Omaha, Nebraska, and Todd owns Stadium Tennis in the Atlanta area, is the Captain of the Wilson stringing team, and was the 2009 Tennis Industry Magazine Stringer of the Year.

But enough about me. In my next posts I will review the strings and tensions we saw most commonly in the tournament, and then I will reflect on some lessons to be learned from stringing this sort of tournament.