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Noah Rubin’s “Behind The Racquet” • With • Donna Vekic | Tennis 10sBalls

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.

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“I started playing tennis when I was six years old. From four to six I practiced gymnastics. It’s one of my favorite sports, especially to watch on TV. When I started gymnastics was never to be a professional or anything. I was getting better and better but one day the coaches came up to my parents and told them I would be too tall for it. Looking back I guess they were right. The summer was approaching and my parents said I should try something else. I said, ‘Why not tennis?’ From the first day I was really into it. I remember rolling my ankle in my house before the first practice but still went. I enjoyed tennis from the beginning but probably because I was so competitive. I hated to lose and needed to win. I do really love tennis. There is nothing quite like playing a night match, especially at Grand Slams. You can tell I love tennis when I spend the whole day on site and the first think I do when I get back to the hotel is turn the TV on and watch more tennis. 

I remember having one of my longest losing streaks. I was around 16 years old and lost seven matches in a row, and this was when I was restricted to the amount of professional tournaments I could play. I couldn’t just play week after week to try and get that win. I finally won my first match after a while at Indian Wells. It was such a relief. After losing a couple matches it gets in your head, thinking I didn’t have what it took. The struggle was moving up the rankings quickly. I was 16 and already top 100 in the world. I won my first WTA event at 17. Every time I reached a final or won a tournament, the next few after would be a waste. I would lose early from all the pressure I put on myself to have to win. I really didn’t enjoyed playing from around 18-20 years old. Everyone expected me to keep on winning from when I was 16. It just doesn’t always happen like that, it’s so rare. Now when I see all these young girls, I know it will eventually stop. From then it’s just how they deal with it and move pass it. A lot of the pressure is coming from media. I remember reading an article where they called me a ‘tourist’ at the tournament. I was never into reading too much about myself, didn’t pay too much attention to it all. It was easier at times because I wouldn’t spend too much time in Croatia to listen to what people said. Even if you don’t try you always hear that people are talking about you. I was still working hard, practicing, doing everything right, but it was just not being shown in matches. I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t enjoying tennis. Things changed and my ranking went from outside the top 100 to top 20 in the world. I really grew up, through the natural process of growing up and just became older. I cannot say it was because I was working harder, I was just smarter about it all.

The last couple of years I have been so lucky to have an amazing year. Between my head coach, Torben Beltz and my fitness coach, Zlatko Novkovic, they have both really helped me. I don’t know what I would do without them. We get along so well I actually look forward to going away to tournaments and being with them. Torben is such a positive guy which is so important for me. I can get down on myself and am really hard on myself. I find balance as I am also a very social and friendly person. There are some nights where I am going to stay in my room, not talk to anyone and get room service. Most times I either have dinner with my team or friends. I am friendly with most girls on tour. One of my closest friends is Maria Sakkari and it is never easy having to play her, which I have done a few times times recently. It’s terrible. We both want to win the match and we have this friendship. The worst part is she knows every single move I will do. I know what she is thinking at any given moment, just like she does. It makes it so unusual. The whole time I am thinking, ‘I just want this match to be over.’ I am not thinking too much about the friendship during the match because I know we will always have it. We always have this thing where the winner pays for dinner.

My best advice for the next generation of tennis players is to find positivity. Don’t overthink too much and try to look at the larger picture. Think long term process, because even now I catch myself thinking about wanting it now and that doesn’t help me play better. It’s tough to do but you need that great team around you to help you with all of that. Not everyone can have it, it’s not easy, that’s why tennis is so tough.”

Donna Vekic (donnavekic)

Editors note: We applaud Noah Rubin and all of his colleagues. The way they open up and expose their situations with the reader of BEHIND THE RACKET is truly amazing. NoahRubin33 is always ready to give you a tennis tip by sending him your video. Please listen to his great podcasts and go check out his coaching on his sites.

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