Welcome, Class of 2014!
by Dallas Oliver, 3 September 2007
Labor Day Weekend. Class is in session, and the new sixth-graders start to walk the halls of middle school. This week's rankings at the Tennis Recruiting Network are the first of the 2007-08 season - and they also mark the arrival of the Class of 2014.
The calendar at TennisRecruiting.net runs from September 1 through August 31. We calculated the final rankings for the outgoing seniors during last week, and we bade farewell to the Class of 2007.
This week, the first week of September, we welcome the new sixth graders from the Class of 2014. Tuesday and Wednesday's rankings are the first official lists for the 2014 boys and girls, respectively.
This article takes a brief glance at some of the top youngsters in the Class of 2014. These kids have performed quite well in the 12s division - as well as the 14s and 16s.
Noah Rubin (Merrick, NY)
We start our whirlwind tour up in New York State, home to Noah Rubin. Rubin has established himself as one of the best sixth-graders in the country. Although he won't turn twelve until next year, he has already won quite a few 12s events, and he has been competing primarily in the 14s.
Rubin's 53-25 record includes three tournament championships - two sectional titles as well as a National Open
in his home state. And this summer he posted four wins over older opponents at the Boys 12 Clay Courts
in North Carolina.
"Noah is a great, all around kid," says his proud mother, Melanie Rubin. "He is kind, sensitive and bright. He is all about tennis - but there is so much more to him."
Noah has already shown maturity and character on the court. Rubin was awarded the 2006 Sportsmanship Award by the USTA Eastern Section. He backed that up this summer - winning the Sportsmanship Award at the USTA National Open in El Paso, Tex.
The 4'8" Rubin plays plenty of tennis, but his parents try to maintain a good balance between tennis and life.
"Noah is a great student who puts a lot of importance in school. He is also on a travel soccer team, and he attends Hebrew school three afternoons a week. We try to make sure Noah sees his friends whenever possible."
Rubin's parents also make a point of turning tennis travels into family outings.
"We always see the sights around tennis venues so that it is not just about the tennis. For example, last summer we visited the Clinton library when Noah and I were at the Hard courts in Little Rock."
Rubin was born on Long Island and now lives in Merrick, New York with his parents, Melanie and Eric Rubin. Rubin's older sister Jessie plays high school tennis for Bellmore Kennedy. Noah works with Lawrence Kleger at Sportime in New York.
Connor Thompson (Atlanta, GA)
Connor Thompson has had a spectacular year competing in 19 tournaments - sixteen of which were in the 14s division. His 62 victories in National and Sectional competition include four wins over Blue Chip opponents in older classes.
Thompson's parents are proud of his play.
"Connor is generally a baseliner, but he is not afraid to come in to the net," said his father, Scot Thompson. "He loves to mix up topspin with slices and dropshots. He has great variety, and he is very consistent."
The 5'3" right-hander works with Brian DeVilliers and Noel Wadawu at the DSI Tennis Academy in Sandy Springs, Ga. They are currently working with Thompson to improve his serve and backhand.
Thompson was born in Atlanta, Ga., and he now lives in Sandy Springs with his parents, Valerie and Scot Thompson. He will be a 6th grader at Holy Innocents Episcopal School.
Aside from a big game and success against older boys, what sets Thompson apart?
"He carries a wooden racket in his tennis bag," says father Scot, with a smile.
Gabrielle Smith (Henderson, NV)
Few youngsters have played as many matches as Gabrielle Smith. Smith played an even hundred matches in 2006-07, going 73-27 in 23 tournaments held in nine different states.
Smith is a proven winner. She won six tournament titles last year, including the ITA Summer Sectional
in Denver. And she did not drop a set on the way to a perfect 5-0 showing at the Zonals
"Gabrielle is an aggressive baseliner," said her father, Gregory Smith. "She is a smart player, and she is extremely fast."
Hailing from Nevada, the 4'11" right-hander is an avid skiier and wakeboarder.
"She also plays a mean game of tetherball," jokes her father.
Smith is also an excellent student who has interests outside of tennis. She plays piano, is active in her church, and she has yet to get anything other than an "A" in school.
"Gabrielle works hard to fit everything in. She stays up late at night to study, plays tennis early, and spends weekends with friends."
Smith was born in Long Beach, Calif., but she now lives in Henderson Nevada with her parents, Marjie and Gregory, and her siblings.
Brooke Austin (Indianapolis, IN)
Although this week's rankings are not yet complete, we fully expect the #1 girl in our first official Class of 2014 rankings to be Brooke Austin.
Austin's record is amazing to see - 131 wins against only 17 losses. And those wins came at the toughest tournaments in the land: seven wins at the Nationals
in Kentucky to win the consolation event; four wins at each of the Winter Nationals
; five at the Spring Nationals
. Not to mention her eight titles in Midwest Section championships and tournaments like the Peach State
and National Opens.
Noone is more proud of Brooke than her father, Bart Austin.
"Brooke plays very aggressive and likes to control the pace. And she is a smart player - she uses her quickness and knowledge of the game to take the right shot at the right time.
"She loves to practice and she is a student of the game. She enjoys reading and reads books about tennis."
Austin works with Jeff Smith at the Indianapolis Tennis Center in Indiana. They are currently working on having her keep the ball deeper.
Austin is also a straight-A student who works hard on her academics. With so much time in the classroom and on the tennis court - 28 tournaments in 2006-07 - it can be difficult to maintain normalcy.
"Very few people if any have her work ethic - both on the court and in school. However, we do have sleep-overs, and we designate certain times as 'Brooke's time'."
Austin lives with her parents, Robin and Bart Austin, and her younger sister Jaida in Indianapolis. She will be a 6th-grader at Kitley Intermediate School this fall.
Alizee Michaud (Orlando, FL)
Florida is one of the toughest tennis states in the country, and Alizee Michaud competed in many of its higher-profile tournaments. She was the runner-up at the Florida Sectionals in June, and she placed third at the Gator Bowl back in April.
Overall, Michaud went 58-15, with eleven of those wins coming against older players rated 4 Stars or better.
Michaud has always been athletic, but those interests were not always in tennis.
"She had a number of different interests - horseback riding, gymnastics, soccer, ballet. When she was eight, her dad was working at a facility and we had her compete in a rally ball tournament. She was so bad - we thought it would be her first and last try," joked Nicole Michaud, her mother.
"But we were wrong. For some reason, that episode awakened her sense of competition. That same year, she started playing competitively and has obviously done great!"
Alizee was born in France to Vincent and Nicole Michaud. Mr. Michaud is a tennis coach and works at the Human Performance Institute in Lake Nona, Orlando. Alizee also trains at the Institute.
The USTA has also taken note of the younger Michaud's talents. She has been invitied to attend USTA High Performance camps in both Key Biscayne, Fla. and Carson, Calif.
The Michauds do a good job of keeping life balanced - and making sure Alizee has plenty of time to enjoy being a kid.
"It is not really an issue right now. Alizee is very talented, and tennis is a big part of our life. But it is not the focus. Family and school come first. It is not always easy, but we try to keep it that way."
Starting this week, and for the next 366 weeks, the Tennis Recruiting Network will provide rankings for the Class of 2014. Please join me in welcoming these kids who will be the future of American tennis!
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