Chanda Rubin, 35, was ranked as high as No. 6 in the world in singles during her outstanding professional tennis career and as high as No. 9 in the world in doubles. She won seven career WTA singles titles and 10 doubles titles and last played a professional match in 2007. She was also a member of the U.S. Fed Cup and Olympic teams during her illustrious career, including going 8-3 for her career in Fed Cup matches.
Rubin is now a member of the USTA Board of Directors, as she began serving her first two-year term as a Director at Large in January 2011. She was also previously a member of the Grievance Committee from 2005-08 and served as the presidential appointee to the Executive Committee for the 2009-10 term.
She took some time to talk with USTA.com about her new role on the Board of Directors, The Chanda Rubin Tennis and Scholarship Foundation, the loss of her house in Lafayette, La., to a fire last December, taking classes at Harvard Extension School and the future of American tennis.
USTA.com: You started serving your first term as a Director at Large on the USTA Board of Directors this year. How excited are you to be on the board for the first time, and how much are you looking forward to your tenure?
Chanda Rubin: I have been involved with a couple different committees at different points from the Southern Section to the National level and the Executive Committees. It has been an interesting road that I did not really plan. I just had a desire to give back where I could and be involved where I could. I think being on the Board of Directors now, my goal really was to learn as much as I could on the national level in a different way than as a player. I know there is a whole lot that goes into the organization and running it, with volunteers as well as the staff, and having to coordinate it all. I just wanted to learn a lot more and hopefully be able to contribute positively to the situation, and that is what I am most excited about. So far it has been great. I have met some really good people, and I have gotten to interact more with people I already knew within the organization. It has been an interesting journey so far, and I am looking forward to continuing it and myself growing within the role.
USTA.com: When you retired from playing, or even when you were playing, were you planning on giving so much back to tennis, including being on the USTA Board of Directors?
Chanda Rubin: It really just sort of happened. A couple of board members were former players, and they talked to me about it initially, and that got me thinking specifically about the Board. I was already on the Executive Committee at this point. It really was not this big idea or plan once I stopped playing. I had no thoughts of it. The first time I thought about the Executive Committee was when I got a call from Lucy Garvin, who was about to be the USTA Chairman of the Board and President at the time, and she asked me to be on the Executive Committee. After thinking about that, the board was then a whole different animal to me. It is a big commitment; it adds a bit of weight to the position. You do have the responsibility to try to make the best decisions and try to help promote a positive direction. I wasn’t sure about that aspect of it, but I figured if you talk about wanting to understand certain aspects and you have an opportunity to actually see it first hand, I think a person has to take advantage of it. So that was my idea and again to also try to give back in a positive way and hopefully be able to grow and to also help grow the game. It is simple when you get down to it, but there is a lot involved, and I am just trying at this point to take it all in.
USTA.com: How much do you enjoy working with children and giving back to the community with your Tennis and Scholarship foundation?
Chanda Rubin: I do enjoy it. I started the foundation back in 1998. I was a bit younger, and my mom encouraged me to do it and helped me get it going. It has been pretty much us and initiating things to the foundation and then getting people from the community involved and getting other players involved, which I so appreciate because you can’t do it without help. I have learned a lot about that process, as well. It was tough when I was playing, and I realized towards the latter stages of my career when I was dealing with injuries, surgeries and putting the time into rehabbing, it was tough to continue with my foundation work. I could not do as much, and it was a little frustrating from that perspective. It has its own rewards when you are in a place where you can give back and where you can try to influence people and kids in particular in a way that you were influenced as a kid. That is how I think about it. I have people who came into my life and helped me at stages when I really needed it, and that is all you can hopefully do for someone else. Hopefully it sticks somewhere. You don’t know where it is going to be, but hopefully you can make an impact and just try to show an appreciation for the things you had when you were that age.
USTA.com: How has your foundation grown and evolved since you first established it back in 1998?
Chanda Rubin: I am just getting back to a place where I am looking to do more with the foundation. The last three years of my career I had three surgeries, rehab and just struggled with a lot of different things in that period. I had been involved with the ITF Circuit of events that I started sponsoring and then they grew through that sponsorship into eight events. The USTA around that time, took them over and so it freed up a little more of my time where I could devote it to myself. The foundation was a family-type of project with some community help and support when needed. Once the USTA took over those events, which was sort of my big focus at that point, I was able to drop the focus a little bit from the foundation. Since then, I haven’t been able to do much significant work, so that is my goal now – to get it going back again, start having events again and bringing in some funds so I can continue things I was doing before, which was giving opportunities and grants. I still do clinics, but I really want to get into the real meat again of the foundation of what I am trying to do and the mission.
USTA.com: Your home in Lafayette, which you had built, was ruined in a fire in December. How have you moved on, and how hard was it? What are your plans for the future?
Chanda Rubin: I finished building my home about two years ago. I just finished decorating the last room about three weeks before the fire. It had felt like I had just moved in.
I have not quite decided whether to build a new home or not, and that is the next hurdle for me. The first thing was getting through the initial process with insurance, and I am at the tail end of that. Now I am getting to the point where I need to decide if I am going to build. First the house has to come down, which is going to be the next stage of the process and getting cleared to do that; then I need to decide if I will rebuild or not. I am not quite certain. The time commitment to build was not what I was expecting to have to do right now. It was not part of the plan. I loved my house; I got it the way I wanted because I built it. Those are two end points I am in between. That is what I have to figure out, and I haven’t quite done that yet.
I am still living in Lafayette now. I am in a furnished condo unit that is still somewhat temporary, but it is the best place I can be at this point. It is still in the same neighborhood development and still convenient, and I have been able to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Hopefully whatever happens is something you can make it through and you can recover from and, if you can, move forward.
USTA.com: You are also taking online classes now at Harvard Extension School in business and economics. When did you decide to take those? When did you start, and how are they going?
Chanda Rubin: I have been doing it for two years now. The new semester started in January. Initially I started because I was in the transition period from playing and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was doing some television, but you lose a bit of that – what you get from being a player – a bit of the pressure, the single mindedness and that kind of stuff. I was just looking for things. I was not sure, but there were some different subjects I was interested in. I started looking online, and it grew from there. I took an interest in some of the classes that they offered and the idea of going back and expanding my mind, something I had not been able to do since high school. My parents were always sticklers about education. That was always a big focus for me until the time I turned professional.
Everything just kind of shifted a little bit. I thought it might be cool to take a few classes, see what that is about, learn about some subjects I am interested in, and it just started from that kind of idea. I did not think about any type of degree. It was just something I was interested in learning more about, and over two years later, I am still doing it, and I am enjoying it. At times it has been crazy because I am still trying to do all the other things I do, and I didn’t expect to be a student, but it has been a great experience, and I am kind of addicted. I always go back and sign up again each semester. I think it is one of the best uses of time, as well, when you think about what you want to do, and that was my other idea in taking the classes, so I am just enjoying it.
USTA.com: Looking at some of the young Americans, who do you see as a few players to watch with some real potential?
Chanda Rubin: I try to watch some of the Americans now. I think Melanie Oudin obviously has had a great run, and she propelled herself up into the higher levels of the game pretty quickly. I watched her as a junior, so it was really interesting to see her play in main draws and do so well. I think it is a tough transition for her, and I think that is where she has to work is on the transition from people not expecting anything to then having some expectations and people having a target on your back because you have been in the spotlight.
Beatrice Capra, I watched during the US Open. I think she is going to get better going to college at Duke and honing her game. Some young players I still think need a little growth, but that is what you hope you are able to give players as a national organization, that is the goal of the USTA, to give them more opportunities to grow. There are a few other names I have been seeing recently with good results, but you just have to give people faith to develop in the game. Young players need some space and some matches and playing opportunities against better players, and we also need to tap into younger players now, like what the USTA is trying to do with 10 and Under Tennis. I think that is going to be really important. You can only do a certain amount with the field of talent and kids that you have. If there is not a big enough field and pool of talent, you are not going to maximize all of the resources you have, so I think that is going to be a big part going forward, as well.
USTA.com: You played a bunch of Fed Cup matches in your career, including playing in the 1995 final. What did you enjoy so much about Fed Cup and the team competition?
Chanda Rubin: I enjoyed it. I played under a couple different coaches, so that is always interesting to get a feel for the different styles, and, of course, being in a team environment is totally different from what we did all year long on the tour. It takes a bit of transition, and there is pressure. There are times you feel like you are going to throw up; you are thinking, ‘I have to win this match for America.’ It is a different type of pressure you are not used to, but it was a growing experience for me and experiences where I learned something and that then translated and was helpful for me during the rest of the year. The times I was able to play Fed Cup and I was able to get some matches in and do well, I always did much better for the rest of the year. I think the aspect of improvement and Fed Cup being a great opportunity to play on a team for a change are the two biggest reasons why I enjoyed playing. The coaches I was able to play under, Billie Jean King, in particular, I learned so much from, and they were some of the best experiences I had in my tennis career. I loved it.