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Noah Rubin’s “Behind The Racquet” • With • James Blake | Tennis 10sBalls

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Editor’s note: 10sBalls thanks Noah Rubin for giving us permission to repost these great stories. We wish him and this endeavor the best of luck. Great seeing Noah wearing K-Swiss and playing Solinco Strings.


#LegendaryBTR- “I’m not generally someone who’s extremely expressive, my wife will tell you that. She said we had two daughters because I needed to be softened up. It’s kind of a joke amongst my friends that I got what I deserved with a household of females. When my dad passed, having my friends, my mom still around and my brother there, was so instrumental. My whole family wanted to pick me up and just let me know it’s okay. I was never someone that was a big crier, or truly emotional, but they let me know it was okay to be emotional in times like this. I then became physically sick. This was my first recognition that my psychology can have a huge effect on me physically, because of the immense amount of stress. The stress of my dad passing away led to the development of symptoms that affected my facial nerves. I’d always thought of myself as someone that was relatively laid back, but it all just seemed too much. For me at that time the stress wore me down. I also wasn’t sleeping, which just added to my physical sickness. All of this kept me off tour for quite a while, and I couldn’t be more upset. I was 24 years old and I felt like this is my time to play some really great tennis and continue improving but it ended up being a time where I was off tour for eight months. Since I was forced to be home with my friends, I became a better person and a better friend. I began to realize how much life there was outside of tennis after spending time with friends that I had known since middle school. After all of this I learned more about them, in this short period of time just because I was in their lives day to day. Normally I couldn’t be there for them because of my training but this was completely different. A different world for me. I was so hyper-focused on what I was doing that I didn’t have the time to just be a good friend. I became a better friend for people that were always there for me. I’ve got people that care about me whether I win or lose a tennis match, and that made the rest of my life better, not just my tennis career. I do truly believe it made my tennis career better because I played with a little less pressure, knowing that I was supported by a lot of these people. It made a big difference. I know other people don’t have the same sort of resources. I wrote a book that next year. It talked a lot about my experiences and the journey of coming back. I was 24 when my dad passed and wrote the book basically from 25 to 26. I was very young and in the beginning I thought it was crazy. When I was sick I truly didn’t know if I’d ever come back to the sport. I went to a publisher thinking about other things I could do and I always wanted to write. At first I said I wanted to write a children’s book but the publisher said that there is too much competition and people have no idea just how tough it is. They suggested to write a longer version, an actual full book. I was still at the point of ‘maybe I’ll start writing’ and before I knew it, I started getting healthier and was getting back on tour. Once I got back on tour the publishing company came back to me with a lot of interest. They asked me if I was still thinking about sharing my story. They said, ‘Why don’t you put pen to paper and start writing your story.’ I worked with another writer, Andrew Friedman, who was with me for around six months to a year. It was extremely cathartic. Like I said before, I’m not that emotional, but I can’t tell you how many times we were sitting there, going over what happened in 2004, talking for over an hour, and just crying everything out. We started and just kept talking and talking and talking, and going through it all. Just working on the writing processes. It made it that everything I was feeling started coming out. Not everything made it into the book, but to just open up and think about all these feelings I probably would have kept bottled up for a while, was necessary. It was all a tragedy, but I found a way to make it a positive. There were newfound connections with friends and I found a way to cope with my feelings, which got me to a better place emotionally and mentally. I am beyond thankful for that. If anything it was a learning experience for me. I saw how my emotions could affect me physically. It gave me insight into the lives of people who deal with mental health issues and how it can cripple them. I have complete sympathy. With a sport like tennis it’s really important to shed light on these issues because you’re out there alone. You’re an individual and the pressure is on you the entire time. I hope people begin to realize that we’re human beings, as well as athletes, and there are issues we deal with like everyone else. People forget we aren’t robots. People see this fantasy world and guess that everything is kind of perfect. There are true struggles, that each and every player deal with that are far more important than winning or losing.” James Blake

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