Just some months ago, after lying on the floor for a few seconds to let the whole reality of his victory sink in, Paul Jubb became the first Briton and first man wearing the colors of the University of South Carolina’s Gamecocks to lift the singles trophy of the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships, the biggest achievement for tennis players evolving at college level in the United States.
Even if this was not his first significant result—Jubb, under-16 Boys singles champion at the LTA British Nationals in 2015, had already made it all the way to winning a Futures title in Lithuania in 2018—things seem to have gotten better and better for the Briton since May.
In June, Jubb defeated Denis Istomin and Andrey Rublev to bypass the qualifying phase of the Eastbourne ATP 250, only letting Taylor Fritz dismiss him from the tournament. Soon after, he received a wildcard to make his Grand Slam debut in the singles main draw of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.
Although he bowed out to World No. 69 Joao Sousa in four sets in the first round, the then nineteen-year-old reached his highest ATP ranking of 427 on July 22 and made sure to let the world know he is ready to come back for more.
He has since snatched a second Futures title in Cancun, Mexico, and is concluding his season in the Dominican Republic, where he has made it to the semifinals of an M15 and is competing for another title. Jubb—who comes from the northeast city of Hull, England—is harvesting the first golden fruits of fifteen years of relentless work.
“I’ve played this sport from such a young age [five years old] and I’ve always felt like it was something I was born to do,” he said while we were conversing the day after his semifinals match in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, “And I’ve always had a good self-drive to do well, I’ve always been determined to go as far as I can—that’s just the main thing, really”.
Playing for the University of South Carolina since the age of sixteen, Jubb has brought the Gamecocks under the spotlight several times before winning the NCAA championships, notably when he ended his junior season as third nationally-ranked male player in singles—the highest ranking in Gamecock history.
And the Briton’s hard work for his team seems to have bounced back to him in the form of friendship and a motivating atmosphere. “You’ve got your teammates pushing you every day and it’s less of an individual mentality than when people are out for themselves,” Jubb said, with some fondness, when describing the difference between playing tennis individually and in college.
“It’s more of a team environment, where people are out to help each other and it’s always fun, energetic. You’ve got the people, really close friends around you all the time, and who you’re training with.
It’s really hard not to get better in those environments because it’s just so easy to work”. Parallelly to his evolution with the Gamecocks, Jubb has tried his hand at professional tennis since 2016—albeit the rules of the NCAA only allow him to compete as an amateur for as long as he is part of a university team.
What he has learned so far proves that the men’s professional circuit and that of college tennis are two different worlds. “The traveling aspect and stuff... It depends obviously on the level of tournament you’re playing.
I’ve played Challengers this summer, and it’s obviously a bit better than the places you go for Futures. The higher the level you go, the easier it gets, it’s nicer places and it’s more enjoyable. Some of the Futures… the weeks are a bit tougher here and there.
When you’re traveling professionally, you’ve got to have a good team around you, like a good coach whom you enjoy spending time with because you’re with that person for weeks. Whereas, when you’re in your team, you’ve got seven of the guys with you when you’re traveling”.
As his years with the Gamecocks are coming to an end—he is currently concluding his senior season—, Jubb will dive deeper into the professional tour. In the lemony morning light of Santo Domingo, he paused for a split-second and looked into the void as if musing on how different his life will be from now on.
“Sometimes, it can be a bit lonely when you’re playing professionally,” he’d said, just a few minutes before. But Jubb’s consideration for the social facet of circumstances—which peeks out in conversation like the American intonation to his otherwise British accent—is a hint at his friendly personality.
“I’m speaking to a lot of people who I didn’t know before I came,” he said, referring to the week he has spent in Santo Domingo. “Once you start seeing people every day, you automatically start making friends and meet new people which is an aspect that I really like about it; it’s seeing people who are from all over the world, who are from different cultures, it’s nice”.
But does the on-tour rivalry affect player-to-player friendships? “You’re playing week in, week out, everyone’s going to lose matches. Once you get over that part, it’s no big deal. There are some people who, maybe, can’t take a loss here and there, but...
I lost to my friend [fellow Brit Jan Choinski] yesterday, but I’m not bothered. We still had breakfast this morning,” Jubb added, smiling. “It’s fine. You can’t be too sad about it”. When he concludes his participation in the Futures in the Dominican Republic, Jubb will head to two weeks of stay at the IMG academy, then fly home to spend Christmas with his family and childhood friends—a deserved finale to a year that has passed in a whirl of emotions.