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Rubin earns praise from Federer after Oz Open loss

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JACK MILNER

The 20-year-old American had to qualify for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne and then managed to win his first round match which set up his clash with the 35-year-old 17-time Grand Slam champion in the Rod Laver Areana.

“There’s something about him,” Rubin said at his post-match press conference. “Obviously there’s an aura, and you just look, and you say: ‘Wow, okay, that’s Roger Federer.’ A couple of times in the first set, I just took a peek over to the other side, like: ‘Wow, that’s that’.”

Star-struck moments aside, Rubin stayed with Federer through three tight sets and had two set points before succumbing 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

Despite the apparent mismatch, Rubin said he was “actually pretty disappointed” in the moments after the loss. He had chances, especially in the third set where he led 3-0. But while he played superbly and won many friends with his fiery forehand, he did not have the experience nor the weapons in his armoury at this stage of his career to stave of the Federer express. 

Before the match Rubin had said he felt especially lucky to play Federer, in what might be the last stages of Federer’s career. After their match he retracted that statement with a smile.

“I take that back – he’s going to be here forever,” said Rubin. “That guy is immortal.”

Rubin has hit with other top players and listed their strengths: Andy Murray “doesn’t miss a ball”; Novak Djokovic “is a machine”; Stan Wawrinka, “you can’t see the ball when he hits it”. Of his latest opponent, Rubin simply said: “Fed is Fed.”

“He took a ball that I swear was past him and hit it for a winner,” Rubin said. “You just have to look at that and say: ‘That’s Roger Federer for you,’ and you just move on to the next one.”

But while Rubin was in awe of his opponent, Federer had some complimentary things to say about the young American.

“I was impressed by his serve speed on the first and second serve. I mean, he’s a smaller guy, but he was able to move the ball around nicely, with good consistency. Honestly, it was a nice second serve. I think it made it hard for me to get on the offensive early in the rally,” Federer said at his post-match interview.

“I would put him in the category of aggressive baseliner, Nishikori, that kind of category. A guy that will take the ball early when he can, try to finish shots, like Schwartzmann (interestingly, another Jewish player from Argentina).

“I was very impressed by Noah. I thought he played really well. I feel like he’s going to have a great, consistent career. The question now is how far can he go? It’s so hard to tell with these youngsters because they just need time to mature and to get used to the tour and all that.

“I think there’s lots possible for him, I really do.”

At the start of the match Rubin won the coin toss and elected to receive, deferring the opening service game to Federer.

“I wanted to see what he had in him,” Rubin said. “I wanted to see what he had. I’d heard the stories, but I didn’t see it in person.”

Federer’s serve was, in fact, his most reliable weapon in the match. He ended up with 17 aces and won 82 per cent of his first-serve points.

As the two shook hands at the net, Rubin told Federer that it had been “an honour” to face him, especially on a court where Federer and many others had played memorable matches over the years.

“To be a part of that – not that I made history; I wasn’t even close – but just to be another drop in that, there’s something to be said for that,” Rubin said. “It was really nice.”

Rubin is one of the many young guns of American tennis and there are high hopes for the kid from New York.

He has always been tennis mad and apparently even his barmitzvah had a tennis theme. He attended the Merrick Jewish Centre religious school, and collected donated tennis rackets for the Israel Tennis Centres as his “mitzvah project”. He said: “I want people to know I’m Jewish and I like to represent the Jewish people.”

Tennis is in his blood as his father, Eric, was the top player on the tennis team at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens. He and Lawrence Kleger coach Noah. His older sister, Jessie, was captain of the Binghamton University tennis team.

 

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