The 2020 US Open starts next Monday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center but like nearly every other sporting event going on these days it’s being played without any fans in attendance.
Not surprisingly a number of top tennis players are skipping this year’s Open although Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams did commit to taking part. This may open the door for little-known players to make deep runs and perhaps even win the shiny hardware at the end of the tournament.
The best local professional player, Noah Rubin, qualified for the men’s doubles competition but wasn’t named as a wild card entrant for the singles field. He will still stay busy however talking to players for his website, Behindtheracquet.com, which he started last year and was profiled by Ted Koppel on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” shortly after its launch.. Think of it as the tennis answer to the Players Tribune.
Rubin, who grew up on Long Island’s South Shore, told me in a recent phone conversation that he learned tennis from his paternal grandfather who lived in Bayside as had his dad. Although he won numerous tennis championships as a junior Noah found the transition to the professional ranks somewhat bumpy.
“I started ‘Behind The Racquet’ to show that for most tennis players life is not as glamorous as most believe. You incur a lot of expenses in order to be a professional tennis player and if you don’t win matches you don’t get prize money and endorsements can dry up quickly.”
Aside from professional tennis being not being the easiest way to earn a living it can be a lonely one as you are frequently in places which are a long way from friends and family and it does take a toll on one’s mental health.
Rubin took a course in journalism at Wake Forest University and found himself playing the role of reporter. In casual conversations with players on the men’s and women’s pro tours he found that nearly all of them shared his experiences but few had publicly articulated them. Hence “Behind The Racquet” was created.
The first person testimony is riveting. Melanie Oudin, who at age 17 made it into the fourth round of the US Open in 2009, describes the frustrations of never matching that success because of a myriad of injuries that forced her to retire in 2017. Mary Pierce candidly writes about her abusive father who was also her coach.
“Behind The Racquet” has quickly become popular in the tennis community although Rubin told me there were some tennis organizations who expressed reservation because of its candor.
As is the case with any website, generating revenue isn’t easy. “I am looking for premium advertisers and I hope to create a Behind The Racquet clothing line.” he told me.
Given tennis’s upscale audience it sounds like a credible business plan.
We all heard the expression “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, but it’s how you play the game that counts.” After the Mets had to cancel the weekend Subway Series with the Yankees because a player and another team employee tested positive for COVID-19 that expression should be updated for baseball fans. “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s whether your team is allowed to play the game that counts.”
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Trini Lopez at age 83 from complications from COVID-19 in Palm Springs, California last week.
Trini Lopez is frequently and unfortunately overlooked when Hispanic rock music pioneers are listed. His hits as “If I Had A Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” were some of the first live concert recordings in pop music and they set the stage for the 60’s go-go sound which Johnny Rivers would perfect shortly after Lopez’s initial success.
Lopez would also serve as a bridge between pop crooners as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (he was an honorary member of the Rat Pack) and the up and coming baby boomer rock & roll generation.