Noah Rubin: 'We have to bring tennis to a place to where it has never been before'

The American created Behind The Racquet, a project which uncovers the hidden mental aspects of professional tennis players’ life.

by Alice Cimino
Noah Rubin: 'We have to bring tennis to a place to where it has never been before'

"Not only are many in a sport where they can't make money, they're in a sport where you don't win very often, so they're combining failure on the court with failure financially," Noah Rubin told BBC Sports. The reality of professional tennis players is different from the stream of successes and achievements that the general public witnesses, and the former Wimbledon junior champion knows a great deal about it.

Dubbed "one of the most talented players" by John McEnroe at the age of 11, Rubin has had some struggles to live up to the expectations once on the men’s circuit. Ranked low in the top 200 of the ATP singles ranking around the 2019 Roland Garros edition, the 23-year-old American was considering dropping tennis.

"I didn't know whether I was going to stop for good or just some real time off. I was telling my family and friends that I just don't want to play the sport any more," Rubin recalled. "I wasn't happy - the sport isn't conducive to happiness.

I don't know if I want to throw the word depressed around, but at moments I felt like that. I was really thinking this was the end and the last time I was going to hit a tennis ball competitively." By leaving the tour for some time and focusing on rediscovering the reasons that make him love tennis, Rubin managed to reconnect himself to the sport on which his professional life is based, and which is "very tough on the body and the mind".

"The seasons are way too long, the matches are too long, it is not fan-friendly, it is not promotable, it is not TV-friendly. There are so many issues," he said. "I think we are a little scared of making true fundamental changes - but we have to.

We're at a time where we have to break down the sport of tennis, invest, take a hit for a year or two and bring the sport to a place to where it has never been before”. Rubin is a firm advocate of a reform in the professional tennis world, which would include implanting a system to work on the wellbeing and mental health, offering former players' support to youngsters and improving the athletes' access to psychologists.

The American backs his words with actions, encouraging fellow professional players to open up about their insecurities and experiences. Earlier this year, he created Behind The Racquet, a project which aims to bring the raw aspects of professional tennis under the spotlight.

Featuring active Grand Slam finalists, former successful players, emerging youth, and celebrities who are connected to tennis, BTR is a welcoming space where the stars speak from the heart and reveal their most vulnerable side.

"This has never really been done before, something that shows what these people, who are thought of as having perfect lives or doing really well because they are professional players, are really going through," Rubin says.

"You really get an understanding of what they're going through on a day-to-day basis, what their thought process is, what their mentality is, how they are feeling, how their family is, just how difficult tennis is." Sharing every story with more than 35,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Rubin is set on having a strong impact through his project.

"What I'm really trying to do is pave a way for people that, in five or 10 years from now, are saying 'this is better because of Behind The Racquet,'" he said.

Noah Rubin