By Richard Pagliaro
© James Alfalla
(July 28, 2010) Education was always a priority for Chanda Rubin. The daughter of Edward Rubin, a Louisiana judge, and Bernadette Rubin, a retired school teacher, Chanda once considered pursuing a career in medicine if tennis didn't work out.
Now, 34, Rubin has spent recent days attending summer school as an instructor teaching an enthusiastic group of students.
Former Australian Open semifinalist Rubin and former US Olympic coach Rodney Harmon are teaching this summer at Camp A.C.E., the annual overnight camp run by the United States Tennis Association’s Eastern Section.
Camp A.C.E., which stands for Achieving through Coaching and Education, is in session this week at Ramapo College of New Jersey. The camp provides players ages 14-17 a week of daily tennis instruction, college admissions counseling, and community activities, geared to helping students continue their success after graduation.
This year marks the 12th anniversary of the camp. In addition to swimming and daily tennis instruction, this year’s camp will feature classes in fitness, nutrition, business etiquette, financial literacy and college preparation and admissions counseling.
"I think that communication is the biggest key," Rubin says of coaching. "You can know as much about a topic as anyone, but if can't communicate effectively then the person isn't going to learn much and then it's like you don't know anything at all because you are not conveying it. So I think that's something I've learned a lot through coaching."
The owner of seven singles titles and 10 career doubles championships, including the 1996 Australian Open doubles title partnering former World No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Rubin brought an aggressive brand of all-court tennis to the women's game.
Building her game on a formidable forehand influenced by one of her early tennis heroes, Ivan Lendl, Rubin's court coverage, penetrating return game and ability to attack the net with a versatile volley made her a top 10 player.
"Chanda has a lot of speed on the ball and she likes to go for deep shots," former World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, who partnered Rubin to win the 2000 Linz doubles title, once said. "She can also come in and is not scared to take the opportunity to go to the net."
Rubin rose to a career-high ranking of No. 6 in April of 1996 four months after advancing to the Australian Open semifinals with successive victories over seventh-seeded Gabriela Sabatini and third-seeded Sanchez-Vicario. Rubin's epic 6-4, 2-6, 16-14 quarterfinal conquest of Sanchez-Vicario spanned three hours, 33-minutes — the longest women's match in Australian Open history at that time — and when it was finally over she had earned a spot in the final four and a well-earned reputation as a fierce fighter, who stubbornly refused to shrink from any challenge on the court.
Tennis Now caught up with Rubin, who conducted the entire interview with racquet in hand as if ready to pounce on any short ball (or question), for this Q&A today.
Tennis Now: Chanda, how did you get involved in this clinic and what has been the focus here?
Chanda Rubin: I got involved in it through Linda Mann (Managing Director USTA Eastern) and the USTA Eastern section. She asked me if I would be willing to participate. They had this camp going on and they've been doing it a number of years. She told me about it and it was definitely something I was interested in doing. I thought it was a great concept. I'm always willing, when I have time and when it works for my schedule, to give my time.
Tennis Now: Do you do any coaching at home in Louisiana?
Chanda Rubin: I don't coach. No. I will do certain clinics and camps like this, but I haven't gotten into full-time coaching yet. It's definitely a learning experience for me when I'm able to interact with the kids out here.
Tennis Now: Is coaching something you would like to pursue at some point?
Chanda Rubin: I'm not certain how much I want to do. I'm kind of learning myself as I go along. It's something I would like to do more of and something I hope to be able to grow a little bit with because I understand it strictly from a player's perspective and I understand it from a coach's perspective because I've had good coaches and I know what they've tried to convey to me and how it's worked. I try to find my own style within it. I think that communication is the biggest key. You can know as much about a topic as anyone, but if can't communicate effectively then the person isn't going to learn much and then it's like you don't know anything at all because you are not conveying it. So I think that's something I've learned a lot through coaching.
Tennis Now: Are you still doing commentary?
Chanda Rubin: I am. I'll be in New York doing some things during the US Open.
Tennis Now: Has doing commentary helped you see the game any differently than you did
as a player?
Chanda Rubin: No, I don't think I see it any differently. I am in a different position and have a different view of what's going on. So I understand it from being down there in the trenches, in the heat, and working it out and figuring it out as the match goes on. Sitting back in a studio it's a lot easier to see what's going on and to be able to see the decisions the players should make and do make. My commentary is sort of tempered with that fact. But still, even as a player, sometimes you don't always see what's going on but that doesn't change the fact that there are things you should be doing or things you should not be doing and that's what I try to convey through my commentary.
Tennis Now: Watching Wimbledon I was reminded of you when Serena would hit the inside-out forehand. You were so good at taking the forehand right off the hip and hitting
that diagonal forehand to the opponent's backhand. When you watch the women's game now do you think it's a different style of play then when you were top 10?
Chanda Rubin: I wouldn't say it's a lot different from when I was top 10. Venus and Serena were already on the scene, forces to be reckoned with and sort of game changers. I think that has certainly taken place. We're seeing a lot more younger players coming up, but that's always been the case. We've always seen young players step up. The question is whether or not you're able to maintain that level. I think that's what every young player is going to struggle with. You don't see a lot of serve-and-volley tennis and people attacking and playing net — you don't see as much of that as I saw when I was coming up. But that's been an evolution that's been going on during my career and now after it as well.
Tennis Now: Serena won her 13th major at Wimbledon to pass Billie Jean King for sixth place on the all-time singles major list. Now the question is what is Serena's place in history among the all-time greats? You've played against some of the best players of this generation and faced Graf, Seles and so many of the best champions. Where do you rate Serena among the players you've faced and seen and potentially where will Serena rate among the all-time greats? Could Serena go down as the greatest of all time?
Chanda Rubin: I think that remains to be seen in terms of the greatest. I mean, Serena's certainly there. She's certainly in the conversation of any great player you can talk about based on the number of Slams she's won and just her ability out there. You have certain players that had to compete against more Hall of Famers during their career so I think that's always a kind of consideration when you talk about the greatest. You have to try to put players in the context of the time the played in, but in the end you play your competition and you play who is there in your time. And if you can handle it then you should be considered on par with anyone else who has played in any other generation. So I think certainly she's there. I think she's one of the most talented players that I've ever seen. She combines that with obviously power and the athleticism so absolutely Serena is a game changer.
Tennis Now: I know you had knee surgeries in the past, do you have any interest in playing World TeamTennis or playing any exos in the future? Does your body allow you to play?
Chanda Rubin: I still do some of that depending on what comes up, what time of year it is and what's going on in my schedule sort of thing. I have done some of it and hopefully will do some more.
Tennis Now: Are you still hitting the ball regularly?
Chanda Rubin: A little bit. I don't hit very often, but fortunately it comes back pretty quickly.
Tennis Now: What are your thoughts on the US Open women's field? Do you think we could see a surprise as we saw with Schiavone winning in Paris or Wozniacki reaching the US Open final last year or do you think it's more a case of the usual suspects: Serena, Kim Clijsters, Sharapova, Venus, as the top threats in New York?
Chanda Rubin: I think you kind of have to look at the usual suspects. It's so early in the US Open Series you're not seeing everyone out there yet so it takes some time to see who is playing and how they're playing. Obviously Serena and Kim are two to watch. Kim and Justine both came out so strong when they returned. Now, as defending champion, it's a different kind of pressure and you kind of get into having to maintain, even at their level, they're coming back, they're a little bit older, the body doesn't quite recover the same way it did when you were younger after the long, physical matches. So you have to take injury and recovery into consideration, but at this point certainly those are the names we're talking about.