The idea the American player Noah Rubin (No. 143) had is without a doubt, fantastic, innovative and, above all, original. He is not the most well known player on the circuit but at 22 years old, he has started a fascinating project. Its goal is to reduce the gap and strengthen the connection between the people behind the racquets and the fans. In short, to reach the public, Rubin wants to reveal the real and raw life of a professional tennis player. He has yet to reach these scenarios of the great figures of the ATP and WTA circuits… yet.
This is how the project “Behind the Racquet” on Instagram was born. Featured on the page are players who talk about their thoughts, insecurities and difficulties, while giving fans the opportunity to learn more about the human inside and not just about the professional tennis player.
The principle behind each post is quite simple: all players must pose in the exact same way holding their racquets with both hands in front of them so that their faces are perfectly centered behind the racket. Then, each player must write something significant that has influenced their training or affected their career as a tennis player.
“After returning from Australia, I was watching an Instagram documentary on Netflix called ‘Humans of New York’. Somehow, he immediately clicked with me,” said Rubin, who was inspired by the documentary where foreigners are interviewed on the streets of New York. “Why not use the reach I have for something bigger, something better?”
It was then that the idea of ‘Behind the racquet’ was born. “I want to educate people about what tennis is and to tell stories of human interest and most importantly, to get viewers involved in the lives of players. People do not know what’s going on beyond the courts,” said Rubin, who finished 125th in the world rankings in 2018, his best position so far.
“By knowing the real tennis players and the different situations that we have in the day to day life of this race, and knowing what we think, I think there is a lot to learn from all these stories. People just need a platform, which I hope to give them. Fans do not understand what it means to be the 100 in the world for a tennis player; they think we’re just flying in a private jet and are staying at the Ritz Carlton all the time and we play in front of 15,000 people. The reality is that some of us, those who are planted between top 100-200, have had that opportunity maybe once or twice throughout our careers. Most of the time you play in clubs that have few line judges and no ball kids”.
Two players, Jamie Loeb (WTA No.176) and Marcos Giron (ATP No. 157) shared very personal stories in their messages. Loeb talked about the moment she knew that her mother, Susan, had a stroke while Giron said he found out his parents were getting divorced while he was in the hospital, about to have an MRI on his hip.
“It changed my perspective on everything,” Loeb said of her mother’s illness. “Winning and losing a tennis match does not mean anything in the big picture, it was difficult…. It changed everything for me, because I always wondered if it was selfish not to be home to help… It was something bigger than me, bigger than tennis.”
Rubin said that, although he is satisfied with the response to his initiative, he is even happier to hear the impact he has had on the players he has interviewed. “One of the best moments was when Ernesto Escobedo told me that he had received many messages of support,” says the American, who explains that most tennis interviews focus only on what happens on the court, statistics and the achievements, but never deal with what is important for someone who is out of the sport.
“Having Jamie Loeb come up to me and say that all these people support me a lot is what keeps me going, I want fans to understand what a tennis player is, there are so many different groups, so many things to love just by giving these people the opportunity to express themselves. There will always be support for that, I hope people start following these players now because they have listened to their story, know a little more about them and now feel as though they can identify with them as well. That’s what I want people to remember about “Behind the Racquet”.
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