Wake Forest fans came out in full force in support of their freshman Noah Rubin at the Winston-Salem Open, and the 18-year-old gave the crowd plenty to cheer for on Sunday night. Rubin, who was ultimately defeated by former NCAA champion Bradley Klahn 6-2, 0-6, 7-6 (5), dazzled the crowd with his electrifying speed and uncanny focus.
"It was a great atmosphere at my second home. It was a good experience to be out there against [No. 116 player in the world]. I just came up a little short, but hopefully there will be many more chances to come," Rubin stated.
Playing in his first ATP event, the 18-year-old came out tight against the free-swinging southpaw. For this reason, Rubin said he was inconsistent and was not as light on his feet.
But in the second set, the Long Island-native gained his composure and displayed an all-around game that led him to the Junior Wimbledon and Kalamazoo titles. The 5-9 Rubin began to take the ball early and target Klahn's weaker backhand. His quickness flustered Klahn, who was forced to hit several great shots to win a single point. Rubin topped off the set by cranking out a 125 mph ace.
However, Klahn- playing in his first tournament after suffering a leg injury last month- maintained his focus and fought on. Klahn began to play more consistently, and kept Rubin off balance with his heavy topspin forehand and biting backhand slice. Ranked No. 63 in the world earlier in the year, Klahn used his experience to get the early break of serve for a 4-1 lead.
Praised for his mental fortitude and heart, Rubin rallied back to win the next four games. Following the second break- where Rubin finished a 25 ball rally with a tight-rope angled drop shot- the stadium erupted in "Lets Go Deacs" chants.
With the match on his shoulders at 5-4, Rubin's leg began to cramp. Klahn played a crisp clean game to break at love.
Klahn stated, "I just told myself to buckle down and make balls. If he's gonna beat me, he gonna have to do something special. I know how tough it is to serve for your first ATP match."
Rubin admitted, "Hindsight is 20-20, but I should have played that game differently. My leg tightened up, but he made shots."
After each held serve, the seesaw battle was rightfully determined in a tiebreaker. Both waddled around the court in exhaustion. Rubin took an early mini-break, but gave back two points on his serve, "I didn't capitalize on all my opportunities with too many unforced errors, but it's a learning experience."
This was all Klahn needed, using his biting lefty slice serve to finish out the match. The fans stood up for a lengthy ovation in appreciation for the roller-coaster battle that took place.
Klahn gets a much-needed day of rest before he plays the No. 1 seed John Isner on Tuesday night.
With one match under his belt, Rubin returns to New York to play in the US Open singles and doubles main draw next week, "This was the perfect warm up match for the Open. I played against the type of player, I will see [in Flushing Meadows]."
For what the incoming freshman proved today, Rubin said without hesitation, "I can play with these players. If people didn't know that then I proved that today. Also, there is a lot of room for improvement."
Rubin will continue to work on his game on these courts for the Demon Deacons. And with his combination of animation, athleticism and effort, he gained many fans tonight.