Chanda Rubin assesses women's tennis then and now
Chanda Rubin carries a lot of descriptors with her. She is a 1996 Australian Open singles semifinalist, the 1996 Australian Open doubles champ (with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario), a 2013 Harvard Extension School graduate with a degree in economics, survivor of a home fire, and winner of 17 WTA titles (seven singles, 10 doubles). Twice she won the Eastbourne grass-court event, a prelude to Wimbledon. Rubin once was No. 6 in the world on the WTA, and she holds the good fortune of being both the first player to battle it out in a match inside Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York, and the first American woman to claim a Hopman Cup title (in 1997 with Justin Gimelstob).
She now serves a second term on the USTA Board of Directors, one of three elite athletes in that capacity, as Director at Large. And she was in Indianapolis this past weekend, speaking at the USTA Midwest spring meeting about her own early inspiration to play the sport, her upbringing and family life, and making tennis exciting to others today. Below, I empty my notebook from her address to USTA Midwest conference goers and from our conversation afterward. (Yes, we took a photo.) I hope you will enjoy, and find some of what she had to say insightful:
Rubin noted to conference goers that her father had started her out hitting over a chain-link adjacent to the real tennis court he had built on their family's land in Louisiana. Finally, he allowed her onto the court—and told her that two bounces were allowed before hitting the ball, which she says did allow her to hit it from a prime position, in her strike zone. He then opened her eyes, in a way, to the truth of the matter—just one bounce, dear daughter.
About 10 and Under Tennis, a USTA initiatives: "My dad did that from an early age. Then I became a striker of the ball. No moonballs and all of that stuff."
As to who she found toughest to play against in her own day, from 1991 to 2007 when she last played a WTA match: "Jennifer Capriati." She remarked that the two always had tight battles, and in fact, Capriati led their career head-to-head, 6-5.
When I referred to her 1996 Aussie Open semifinal against Monica Seles, in which she led 5-2 in the third set: No words so much, just one more look skyward and a mix of a sigh and a grimace. To be sure, that one stung.
On who she likes to watch play among today's pros: "Serena Williams. And Taylor Townsend." She said that she admires Townsend's aggressive, attacking game. When Rubin remarked that some playing styles are "boring," I had to think she was alluding to that earlier comment on moonballs. (That comment on Townsend is a far cry from the names she dropped in March 2011: Melanie Oudin and Beatrice Capra.)
On the subject of which Williams sister she found more difficult to play: Here, Rubin actually said Venus, noting that the elder Williams was more likely to crash the net and had great reach. Her lingering remark was that Venus was more "cagey" than Serena, at least at that time.
Your turn, Spin readers: What is your own favorite memory about Chanda Rubin?
Here she is in action at the 1996 Aussie Open, in a singles showdown with her then-doubles partner, Sanchez-Vicario, with whom she went on to claim that Grand Slam's tandem crown:
Got a thought, a tip, or a point to make? Hit me on Twitter @jonscott9.