By Peter Schwartz
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When the US Open begins on Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, most eyes will be focused on names like Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova.READ MORE: Pumpkins May Be More Expensive This Year Due To Smaller Crop, Farmers Say
But for those involved with the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, there will be plenty of attention paid to at least one and possibly two young players.
Ossining’s Jamie Loeb, the 2015 NCAA women’s singles champion from the University of North Carolina, recently turned pro and will compete in the main draw starting on Aug. 31.
“We’re pretty thrilled,” said Mark McEnroe, managing director of corporate development for Sportime Clubs, the home of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. “She was in the qualifying last year and had another strong year in college. She’s been doing very well this summer.”
While Loeb is already in the main draw, fellow McEnroe Academy “graduate” Noah Rubin has some work to do. Rubin, from Rockville Centre on Long Island, is competing in the men’s qualifying tournament and will face Liang-Chi Huang from Chinese Taipei in a first-round match Tuesday.
“He’s had quite a strong summer playing the futures and challengers so we’re hoping for good things from him,” McEnroe said. “We’ll see what he does.”
Rubin played collegiate tennis at Wake Forest. He turned pro after his freshman year and lost in the finals of the 2015 NCAA men’s singles tournament. He was the first player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be the men’s ACC Player and Freshman of the year.
“For our first two name-brand graduates, we’re feeling pretty good about it,” Mark McEnroe said.
John McEnroe launched his academy in September 2010 at the Sportime facility on NYC’s Randall’s Island. In 2012, the academy added locations in Westchester and on Long Island. His philosophy is that players can be developed in an urban setting while still living at home and pursuing an education.
There are a lot of good academies for young players and they all do a great job of training kids to play, but the McEnroe Academy has something that the others don’t. That would be John McEnroe, whose staff is comprised of instructors that have competed at the highest levels of collegiate tennis and medium-to-high levels on the pro tour.READ MORE: NYC Mayoral Candidates Eric Adams, Curtis Sliwa Face Off In Fiery Final Debate
“When you get to the pro level and the upper echelon, it’s really helpful to have someone who’s been there and done it,” said McEnroe’s younger brother. “That is the extra thing that the McEnroe Academy can provide players like Noah and Jamie.”
John McEnroe was a product of the Port Washington Tennis Academy, where in 1974 the program had the four-time US Open champion along with his doubles partner Peter Fleming and the Mayer brothers, Gene and Sandy. Later on, the academy produced McEnroe’s brother, Patrick.
There was a 10-year period where the academy had 10 or 12 of the top 50 players in the world. Now, John McEnroe is trying to recreate that magic with his academy.
So far, so good.
“I think we’ve done a really nice job,” Mark McEnroe said. “Noah and Jamie are sort of the first graduates of the academy but in a sense they were pretty far along on their paths by the time the academy opened.”
The accomplishments of Rubin and Loeb are a sense of pride for the McEnroe Academy, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Right now, the focus is on a very strong group of 10- to 14-year-olds, with many of them ranked among the top 20 players in the east.
“That’s what John really wants, is that his academy can be the place to train for kids who are serious about it,” McEnroe said. “If we keep on the path that we’re on, we feel like five years from now we’ll be talking about having another group of 25 to 40 kids who are 10 to 12 that are in the top 20 in the east.”
But for the moment, the eyes of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy over the next week or so will be on their prized graduates. They have Jamie Loeb in the women’s main draw and they could very well be cheering on Noah Rubin in the men’s main draw.
Not bad for an academy that is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
For more information on the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, visit their website at www.johnmcenroetennisacademy.com.MORE NEWS: Roads Flood, Rivers Overflow As Nor'easter Dumps Heavy Rain On New Jersey