Noah Rubin took the Boys' title at Wimbledon last month. Credit: Getty Images
Long Island native Noah Rubin has never played a single match in the main draw of the U.S. Open, but he has beaten four-time Open champion John McEnroe.
It was almost a year ago when Rubin defeated his mentor on an indoor court at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randall's Island, and Johnny Mac wasn't too happy about it.
"I can't believe I'm losing to this kid, he's awful," Rubin recalled McEnroe saying.
"He tries to mess with me," added Rubin, a 5-foot-9, 145-pound native of Rockville Centre, New York, who will attend Wake Forest University this year. "But after, when we're sitting on the bench, he says, 'Great playing.'"
Still, McEnroe refuses to play him anymore.
"He hasn't played me since," Rubin said.
McEnroe will be rooting for his protege on Tuesday when Rubin plays his first-ever U.S. Open main-draw match against Argentinian clay court specialist Federico Delbonis.
"Obviously, he has been our pride and joy here in terms of a guy who has been playing here for years," McEnroe said. "To have someone like Noah advance and then win Junior Wimbledon and Kalamazoo [the USTA Boys' 18s National Championship] and make the progress we've seen is awesome. And hopefully it will inspire more [New York City-area] kids to want to play."
For his part, Rubin can't wait to play in his backyard.
"It's great to have everybody here," Rubin said. "I've been asked a hundred times for tickets, and I'm like, 'Family first, family first.' Hopefully, enough come out even though I don't get them tickets."
An American man hasn't won a grand slam title since Andy Roddick captured the Open in 2003, and although Rubin isn't a real threat to win this tournament, he hopes he eventually will be.
"We have a lot of guys coming up together and hopefully we'll just help each other out to give America what we need," Rubin said.
Rubin made his ATP Tour debut last week in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on the campus of Wake Forest, losing in three tight sets to fellow American Bradley Klahn. Although he is late to the start of school because of his obligations in Queens, he plans to spend at least a year on campus before potentially turning pro.
McEnroe, who spent one year at Stanford before turning pro, would like to see more young Americans go the college route.
"The physicality of the game and the requirements of the game are greater than ever before," McEnroe said Thursday before Rubin lost an exhibition to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at McEnroe's Academy. "To make that breakthrough, my recommendation is to go to college."
Said Rubin: "It's really up in the air how many years I'm staying. The ideal is I have a great year and then I go pro, but who knows what happens?"
For now, Rubin is simply focused on his first U.S. Open match and trying to make a run.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "Hopefully, it's not my last U.S. Open but hopefully it's a good debut."
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter@AdamZagoriafor coverage throughout the U.S. Open.