Noah Rubin's tough learning lesson

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Sometimes a change of heart can turn into lucky life-changing experiences.

That's just what has happened for 18-year-old Noah Rubin of Long Island, the reigning Wimbledon junior boys' singles champion and USTA boys' national champion in singles and doubles. The latter success at Kalamazoo, Michigan, earlier this month came with two big bonuses: US Open main-draw wild cards into the singles and doubles. And just like that Rubin went from being another teen trying to make his mark at lower-level pro Futures events to being the most talked-about junior in the game.

"It's almost overwhelming in a good way, obviously," said Rubin, by phone shortly after hearing he was granted a wild card into the Winston-Salem Open, a US Open tuneup tournament. "I'm just trying to take time to breathe and enjoy every second."

Rubin came to a premature determination following the 2013 US Open: He was going to shelve his junior career in favor of playing the pros as an amateur. The fact that his 2013 junior season saw him fall in the third round of the French Open, the first round of Wimbledon and second round of the US Open, didn't dissuade the judgment call.

But in a surprise move, after seven months of being away and with mixed results at the Futures, Rubin backpedaled to the juniors.

Naturally, his time away from the junior game left Rubin in a quandary: His ITF junior and ATP Tour rankings weren't high enough for direct entry into the junior Grand Slams, but he wasn't deterred from the mission. Rubin would play the qualifying tournaments at both to earn entry into the junior French and Wimbledon competitions.

"Obviously it's worked out great so far," said Rubin, of returning for a final time to the juniors. "I'm just really happy it worked out."

Rubin initially came to tennis via an interest in the sport by his now divorced parents. By the time Rubin was born, his 5-year-old sister, Jessie, was engaged in the sport. Noah, who was still in diapers when he started swinging at a tennis ball tied to a string from the living room ceiling in his Merrick, New York, home, was soon to follow.

To ensure the children received the best training, Rubin's schoolteacher mom, Melanie, spent eight years managing for free the camp program at the tennis center in exchange for coaching and court time for both children.

Although Jessie was content to pursue playing college tennis at SUNY-Binghamton and starting a career in social media at VH-1 after graduation, Noah's always been focused on finding the right path to becoming a pro.

This time around, Rubin's latest decision has showed a conservative and mature approach to his immediate future. Instead of returning full time to the lower-level Futures, Rubin's opting to play tennis at Wake Forest University.

Although he won't join the freshman class full time until after he's done playing the US Open, he had an advance introduction to the school as the Winston-Salem Open is played on the Wake Forest campus. While his first ATP Tour event didn't end with a win, he more than proved his abilities by holding his own in a 6-2, 0-6, 7-6 (5) first-round loss to 117th-ranked Bradley Klahn.

"It's my new home court," said Rubin. "So I was representing not only myself and my family and my coaches, but the school I play at now."

But before college consumes his attention, this New Yorker is more concerned about coming up with enough tickets for all the family and friends who want to see him play at the US Open.

"I still have to get tickets for my third-grade teacher," he quipped.

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