Noah Rubin admitted it will take a couple of days for the realisation to sink in that he is a Wimbledon winner.
The 18-year-old American, who’s currently ranked at 539 in the world, clinched the boy’s singles title on Sunday afternoon, as he won a thrilling three-set encounter against his compatriot – and good friend – Stefan Kozlov, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
And having wowed a near-full Court 1 for just over two hours in what was his first Grand Slam final, he described the moment he finally captured the title as ‘almost surreal’.
Speaking after his epic win, he said: “It’s almost surreal to be called a Wimbledon champion, hopefully it will kick in over the next few days. It’s just great to be here in front of you all, but right now I just don’t want to cramp in front of you guys!
“Coming into this tournament, I didn’t expect much, I just wanted to get out here and enjoy myself. I haven’t had the greatest results in the past as people know, this is one of my final junior tournaments, so it’s nice to have this under my belt. I’ll always remember this time and will hopefully be back in the seniors shortly.”
Revealing he had spoken to most of his family members within minutes of leaving the court – “you name it, it’s been called” – he said: “I’ve been in touch with my grandparents, my coach, my girlfriend, my mom”. He also received several texts from a certain John McEnroe, as a result of him training at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy at Sportime on Randalls Island – “it’s good to hear from him, I mean, he is John McEnroe.”
Having taken the first set in little over half an hour, the second set proved to be a rollercoaster of an affair. Falling 0-2 behind early on, he then broke back twice to find himself serving for a 4-2 lead, only to see Kozlov show his battling skills, before tying the match up.
The third and final set was nip and tuck – up until 3-3, though Rubin then broke – converting his third break point of the set, and from thereon in, the result was barely in doubt as he held his serve, for 5-3, before breaking again to win the match 6-3.
Describing how he felt the match went, he said: “I had my opportunities in the second and got the early break, but Stefan is obviously a very good competitor, he’s a very good player, I just had to keep focused and keep it going. I kind of laid off the gas a little bit, but thank God, got back into the match in the third. I then got the mid-set break, and kept holding and holding, so it was good.”
Enjoying the surroundings he was playing, he was shocked that people had paid to watch him, almost in shock when asking “Really, people paid to watch me?” He was though was sincere when saying: “I didn’t expect Court 1 to be that packed. I actually thought nobody was going to come out to the match, but that wasn’t the case. They were all very enthusiastic to be out there and the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
And getting involved with the crowd – notably when the third set was tied at 3-3, he said: “They started clapping a little bit, I got little excited. Nothing against Stefan at all, I just felt the crowd at that moment, there’s nothing you can do. It’s a great atmosphere and there’s so much tradition behind this tournament, there’s just nothing you can do [about getting caught up in it].”
His win was all the more remarkable given that he came into the tournament as a qualifier, and had to come through a series of qualifiers just to make it into the first round proper. But when asked if he felt he could be a Wimbledon winner beforehand, he said: “Well, nothing said I couldn’t be here. I believe in my competitiveness, my mental capability, and speed so I don’t see why not [I couldn’t have been a contender for the title].
“But I wasn’t thinking ahead to this – not at all. I remember in my first round qualifier, I was playing a big server that day and thought ‘I could possibly lose at the first round of qualifying. It was just point by point, match by match. Eight matches later, this is where I am.”
Saying his success was down to his mental approach over the fortnight, he said: “When looking back as to what I’ve learnt from myself, it’s just to believe in myself and get out there and never give up. Believe that I could basically do anything I want if I really put my mind to it and to truly believe that every time I step on the court, I’m going to win that match.”
But he also credited this win – and his year to date – to the experience he’s built up from playing around the world. “I’ve just been out here for so long now,” he says. “Besides the Australian, it’s been my third year at all the slams. I think I know what it takes just on and off the court to be professional and take care of business and do what I need to do to give myself the best chance to win.”
Describing how it was to be playing against a close friend in Kozlov, he said: “We don’t really play against each other too often. We’ve known each other for so long now and both wanted it. We were never going to be all in each other’s faces at all or stuff like that. We just know each other well and at the end, it was just a couple hugs and we’re all better.”
The pair went round the court together at the end, draped in a United States flag. “Stefan brought the flag as I was holding the trophy,” he said. “He said, ‘I have a flag, I have a flag’. I was like, dig it out it’s been a long time since there’s been an all-American final.
“And when we were there at the end holding it, I was like ‘this is pretty special’. Hopefully we’ll keep rising together and none of us will fall off, and as a group we’ll get to the top and show the results America wants.”
Admitting the victorious lap of honour at the end did throw him slightly, he said: “We were both a little confused about that. I didn’t know if that was a tradition or not, I didn’t want to break any traditions, so just followed their rules.
“They then told me to do my lap of honour, but I was like, ‘Stefan, let’s go, let’s do it together. I thought it was interesting.”
Looking ahead to the immediate future, he said: “I get home and I have a week off before I have a Future- the lowest level of men’s professional tennis tournaments – in America in Godfrey, the atmosphere there will be a little different, and then I’m off to Kalamazoo. What do I plan to do on my week off? A hug from my parents, besides my father (who was his only family member with him), grandparents, a nice dinner would be nice and to see my girlfriend, I don’t ask for too much.”
The only possible disappointment he had was the fact that having played eight games here for the Championships, he wasn’t afforded the time to go sightseeing. “That I haven’t had time for,” he said. “I see my girlfriend posting pictures of London asking ‘have you been anywhere?’ – No, I’ve just been trying to do my best at the tournament.
“But over the last couple of years I have seen the Changing of the Guards, Big Ben, all the usual things that makes London London.”
After his next future challenge, he’s hitting the books at college, which will then allow him to compete in a several tournaments. “This win doesn’t change my future plans – absolutely not. It just puts a smile on my face. And I think I’ll be leaving my trophy at home, I don’t trust those college kids up there!”