The 2020 US Open starts Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center but like nearly every other sporting event going on these days it’s being played without any fans.

Not surprisingly, a number of top tennis players are skipping this year’s Open, though Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams did commit to taking part. This may open the door for little-known players to make deep runs and perhaps even win the shiny hardware.

Noah Rubin qualified for the men’s doubles competition but wasn’t named as a wild card entrant for the singles field. He will stay busy talking to players for his website, Behindtherac, which he started last year and was profiled by Ted Koppel on CBS’s “Sunday Morning.” Think of it as the tennis answer to the Players Tribune.

Rubin, who grew up on Long Island’s South Shore, told me in a recent phone conversation that he learned tennis from his paternal grandfather who lived in Bayside, as had his dad.

He won numerous tennis titles as a junior but found transitioning to the pros bumpy. “I started ‘Behind the Racquet’ to show that for most tennis players life is not as glamorous as most believe,” he said. “You incur a lot of expenses in order to be a professional tennis player and if you don’t win matches you don’t get prize money and endorsements can dry up quickly.”

Aside from pro tennis not being the easiest way to earn a living, it can be a lonely one as you are often in places far from friends and family and it does take a toll on one’s mental health.

Rubin took a course in journalism at Wake Forest University and found himself playing the role of reporter. In casual conversations with players on the men’s and women’s pro tours he found that nearly all of them shared his experiences but few had publicly articulated them. Hence “Behind the Racquet” was created.

The first-person testimony is riveting. Melanie Oudin, who made it into the fourth round of the US Open in 2009 at age 17, describes the frustrations of never matching that success because of a myriad of injuries that forced her to retire. Mary Pierce candidly writes about her abusive father who was also her coach.

“Behind the Racquet” has become popular in the tennis community, though Rubin told me there were some tennis organizations who expressed reservation because of its candor.

As is the case with any website, generating revenue isn’t easy. “I am looking for premium advertisers and I hope to create a ‘Behind the Racquet’ clothing line,” he told me.

Given tennis’s upscale audience it sounds like a credible business plan.

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We all heard the expression “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, but it’s how you play the game that counts.” After the Mets had to cancel the weekend Subway Series with the Yankees because a player and another team employee tested positive for COVID-19 that expression should be updated for baseball fans. “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s whether your team is allowed to play the game that counts.”

Life and style

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Trini Lopez at age 83 from complications from COVID-19 in Palm Springs, Calif. last week.

Trini Lopez is frequently and unfortunately overlooked when Hispanic rock music pioneers are listed. His hits such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” were some of the first live concert recordings in pop music and they set the stage for the ’60’s go-go sound which Johnny Rivers would perfect shortly after Lopez’s initial success.

Lopez would also serve as a bridge between pop crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (he was an honorary member of the Rat Pack) and the up-and-coming baby boomer rock ’n’ roll generation.


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