Tennis Forum banner

1 - 20 of 32 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
53,692 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
RUBIN SHOWS HUMAN SIDE OF TENNIS WITH "BEHIND THE RACQUET"

UNIONDALE, N.Y.—From Stefanos Tsitsipas' vlogging to Naomi Osaka's photography, there's a trend among younger players on tour of finding creative outlets to brighten up the duller parts of the pro-tennis grind and give insight into their lives.

Among the most intriguing of these endeavors is Noah Rubin's Behind The Racquet, a Humans of New York-style Instagram account that Rubin uses to share the stories of tennis players of all experiences.

"This is teaching me, along with teaching everybody else, that we're not just tennis players," the 22-year-old said. "There's many levels to us. We go deeper than that. We all have a story."

Each post features a portrait of a different player holding his or her racquet in front of their face, captioned with a quote about the challenges and insecurities they deal with.

Rubin kicked the project off in January by sharing a little bit about himself first, saying his "most daunting fear" is disappointing the family members and friends who have sacrificed for his success.

Since then, more than 10 players have participated in the project, all opening up about subjects that are normally difficult to discuss publicly.

"We all work our asses off, and [casual fans] only see the Slams," Rubin said. "Not everybody knows what we go through on a day-in, day-out basis—and the thoughts and the depression and the obstacles that we each have to overcome personally."

While Behind The Racquet lives mainly on Instagram for now, Rubin, the art aficionado that he is, says he wants to someday take it to the physical realm:

"I'm obsessed with coffee-table books," he said. "I have a thousand of them. So I would hopefully make one, one day and get on the Humans of New York level, so we'll see how this goes."

Baseline: Rubin shows human side of tennis with "Behind The Racquet"

These are the WTA players Rubin has profiled so far:



“I had a very difficult route getting to where I am today. My mom migrated here from Guyana, in 1987, searching for a better life. While growing up my mother worked three jobs at one point, just to be able to send me to tournaments. Despite all that, she somehow always found a way to keep me in tennis. I struggled with traveling alone but it was the only choice I had. I literally had to win matches so I could afford to get to the next tournament. It seemed that I was looked past until I won some of the bigger matches. I’ve always been told that I’m too short, or my game isn’t big enough to be top 100. I was at my end point just before winning the 2013, 18’s hard court nationals, in both singles and doubles. From that I earned the main draw US Open wildcards for singles and doubles. Before the final I didn’t even have money to buy breakfast for myself. I tried calling my mom, who was home at the time, to find a solution but my phone was cut off because we couldn’t pay the bill. I was hesitant to tell anyone in fear of being the stereotypical “poor black girl“ or “charity case“. I was so nervous that I threw up in the bathroom before I went on, because if I lost, it would most likely be the end of my career. After winning I was congratulated by the USTA coaches, tournament staff, fans, etc. I thought to myself if only they knew just two hours ago I was throwing up and crying, wondering why no one was around to help me. I was the fifth best junior in the world at the time and I couldn’t even afford to eat breakfast before the final. This was a huge wake up call and turning point for me. It motivated me to keep winning, so that one day I could play freely and not have to worry about anything else besides playing the sport I love. I’m a pretty private and low key person but I have nothing to be ashamed of. Overcoming these challenges just shows me that there’s nothing I can’t handle, on or off the court. Even though I’m in a better position now, I will never settle. I want the best.” -Saschia Vickery



“I have suffered from depression since my early teens. I finally shared my story in a Telegraph article at the beginning of 2018, but, by that time, I’d been grappling with whether to go public with my struggle for years. I have an excerpt from a blog post I drafted (but never published) in 2016—the best year of my career to date.

~“I’m sitting in a busy locker room, facing the nearest wall, with a towel draped over my head so no one can see the silent tears rolling down my face. An anti-doping monitor stands nearby shifting awkwardly left and right wondering when will be a good time to ask me to sign consent papers for testing. She’s been standing there for thirty minutes and I haven’t so much as acknowledged her presence—even in my special state of misery, I feel guilty about this. All of the standard questions and doubts roll through my head with relentless persistence. ‘Why couldn’t you handle the nerves better?’ ‘Why didn’t you play your game?’ ‘Would a someday champion wilt under pressure that way?’ And perhaps the most haunting question, ‘At a career high ranking of 71 in the world, competing at the French Open in Paris, how is it possible that you are this miserable?’ Now, I know what you’re thinking. Of course an athlete is going to be in pain immediately after a three set, two-day-long loss at one of the biggest events of the year. But, in reality, I had not enjoyed a single happy moment in weeks."~

While meditation, a healthy lifestyle, bouts with medication, and a solid support system have helped me immensely in the past three years, there are still days where it’s tough for me to get out of bed. Feelings of guilt and shame for "not being as good at tennis as I once was", or anxiety about life after tennis still consume more of my mental energy than I care to admit. I’m working toward being more honest with myself and others about when I’m feeling down, but it can be difficult to show vulnerability in such a competitive, high stakes profession.” -Nicole Gibbs



“It was Indian Wells, two years ago. I lost in the last round of qualies and I just knew something was off. I called my sister and mom, but no one was picking up, it was really strange. Then finally my sister got in touch with me and told me that my mom had a stroke. I didn’t know what to think and all I wanted to know was that she was okay. I didn’t tell anyone unless someone asked. That changed my outlook on everything. Winning and losing a tennis match means nothing in the grand scheme of things. It was tough, I flew home immediately. If you knew her pre stroke, you would know how independent she was and always on the go, just like everyone knew the famous Susan Loeb to be. Then to see her in a wheelchair, it left me speechless. It changed everything for me since I was always wondering if I was being selfish for being on the road and not at home helping. Between tournaments and training I thought I should’ve been with her, but she wanted me to play. She knows how much it means to me. Both my parents have sacrificed so much to help me get to where I am today. I was on the road quite some time after that, and while my mom didn’t want me thinking about her, it was hard not to. This was something bigger than myself, bigger than tennis. Luckily my mom recovered quickly and fought through it, which has been extremely motivating for me. Between the stroke and both of my parents struggling with depression and fighting on resiliently, it has made me who I am today and continues to push me. I look up to them so much for that. In tough moments I look to them and it just puts everything in perspective.” -Jamie Loeb
 

·
La nuit je mens
Joined
·
86,895 Posts
Clever, creative, sensitive and cute. Rubin is a catch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18,949 Posts
That's lovely and original :)

Sadly I think his game is too weak to really make a dent on the ATP but keep working!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
39,073 Posts
Wow, what a great project. However, if I was a player, I wouldn't share such intimate things with the public. What we all should know though is that we sometimes know nothing. We only know the player and might get some glimpses of their personality. That's it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
37,300 Posts
Vickery's tough upbringing puts some of her more eccentric antics into a lot more context IMO, a lot of it seems to be borderline anxiety. Does she still intend to play for Guyana?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,707 Posts
Inspiring women! :bowdown:

I think the Vickery story is especially poignant. It demonstrates how the junior tour does not necessarily build character but instead develops nervous individuals subjected to enormous amounts of pressure, resulting in high anxiety and an inability to cope later in life (or in big matches).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
53,692 Posts
Discussion Starter #10


“When I was fifteen, I had an eating disorder. There were people in my life and others who would see me on tv, that would tell me I was fat, or needed to lose a few pounds. Eventually, that truly got into my head. I was living off three, 100 calorie bars a day. I struggled with this problem for almost two years, which led to some issues with depression. I completely shut my friends and mom out of my life. I felt like I put this mask on to get through each day, hoping no one would ask how or what I was doing. I became super paranoid because I wanted to keep it all a secret and didn’t want anyone to worry. It took until one day when I realized what I was doing, I was hurting my tennis. I couldn’t get through a week of practice because I had nothing in my body. I let other people change how I felt about myself and that hurt the dream I’ve been working towards since I was four years old. I decided that I needed to get control of my eating. It took some time to get myself to open up to people again. It’s something I still struggle with when I get stressed or upset, but I have a much healthier relationship with food now.” - Madison Keys
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17,878 Posts
I love this account! There is clearly something special about Noah that gets people not only to open up to him, but to be willing to allow him to publish these very personal reflections. I'm sure Behind the Racquet is going to grow and grow.

And then, if it hasn't happened already, Noah will be approached by some agent or media firm or whatever, eager to "monetize" it, as happens with anything free that becomes popular. Be careful, Noah, and stay true to yourself. :angel:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
53,692 Posts
Discussion Starter #12


“About 5 years ago my father slowly started to develop Alzheimers. He was a running back for the Miami Dolphins. He was hit in the head so many times and concussions never kept players out of games. It progressed pretty rapidly. We ended up putting him in an assisted living home. It’s been one of the hardest things I had to endure in my life, which includes having cancer, knee surgeries and my mother having a stroke. This is beyond all of that. Tennis used to be my escape but recently it has just been taking away time that could be spent with my dad. The time with my dad is limited, every day matters, since it’s only getting worse. My biggest fear is that I will come back from a tournament and look at him and all there will be is confusion. I kind of find peace in the fact that he wants me to be doing this and not give my dream up for him, but at what point is it okay to say missing time with my father is worth that? Every day I step on the court and think about why I am not with him. Between playing tournaments and training in Orlando, I am not near him. I try to hide it from people. When they ask how he is doing, I just say that he is fine and happy, but inside everything is screaming that it’s not okay. It weighs on me every single day. I even hide my feelings from friends and family. I live with the guilt every day that I am not doing enough. Even on the phone he is a different person, asking the same question over and over. At times I avoid seeing or talking to him because it isn’t easy to witness my dad declining. I am 23 years old and already lost a large part of my father. He is still around but he truly isn’t there. He was always my hero and someone who I can relate to about playing a professional sport. I don’t have that anymore, I don’t have him anymore.” -Allie Kiick
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,270 Posts
Katerina "Kat" Stewart:

http://instagr.am/p/BuhMxsNAEsr/
kat_stewie said:
“Around the age of 12 was when I realized that I was gay. I lived many years dealing with denial, confusion, and pretending to be somebody that I wasn’t. Tennis, unfortunately, is such a judgmental sport that causes people to believe that they need to portray a certain image or meet a certain standard. Hiding who I truly was for so long, led me to develop depression and anxiety which affected my play because I was worrying about what people thought about me rather than focusing on my game. I was always so afraid to be my true self because being gay wasn’t really accepted as is, and even more so in the tennis world. It took me until I was 19/20 years old to understand and realize that there was a life outside of tennis. Once I overcame the fear of being judged and feeling like an outsider, I finally was able to accept myself ,and by doing so, I found happiness within myself, a newfound enjoyment for the game of tennis, and was able to find the love of my life.”
@MalJackson (since you asked about her in the disappeared players thread)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
813 Posts
Vickery's tough upbringing puts some of her more eccentric antics into a lot more context IMO, a lot of it seems to be borderline anxiety.
And she is definitely not the only one. If one looks closely, a lot of even top players have latent anxiety in their game but it manfests itself in different ways.
Good on Saschia to open up on this, it will help her heal and evolve.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
53,692 Posts
Discussion Starter #17


“As a senior at USC, I was giving my last season everything I had, physically, emotionally, and socially. I planned on hanging up my racquets after, so it felt imperative to end my career on a high note. Because I felt so close to my teammates, I knew it would be special to achieve something big together. As NCAAs got closer, we built great momentum to be a top contender. The pressure was on and expectations were high. Losing in the Sweet 16 was far from what we imagined and was a heartbreaking loss to swallow. I sat in my hotel room afterwards and thought about how it all didn’t feel right. The loss aside, I knew it was wrong to end my tennis career with this feeling in my gut. The next couple months were quite confusing for me. While I was finishing up units in summer school, I was interviewing for jobs. I was conflicted to be working so hard to get something I did not want. Eventually I picked up a racquet again to blow off some steam, and it just felt right. The love was still there and I was not ready to let tennis go. Joining the professional circuit was one of the scariest things I have ever put my ego through. If I wasn’t going to use my college degree to work towards financial independence, I needed to make this endeavor worth it. My family helped me financially and my coach agreed to be compensated with lunches after practice. There was constant fear on whether I would ever been good enough to make it all worthwhile. After four years of grinding, I finally built enough points to make my first grand slam qualifying. Being in New York and playing my way into the main draw, blew me away. I have always felt a tier below my peers, so in my mind, things like this aren’t suppose to happen to people like me. My only explanation for the unexpected is that I had the right people (my family, coaches, friends, and teammates) to empower me. Every day I step out onto the court, I do it for everyone that has embraced my love for the game, because I know I was not built to do it alone.”-Danielle Lao
 
1 - 20 of 32 Posts
Top