USTA Nationals 4.0 competitor Dirk Koopman and his grandmother, former USTA gold ball winner Eleanor Rubinstein
© Gregory Shamus
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
At the 2013 USTA League Adult 40 & Over 4.0 National Championships in Indian Wells, Calif., this weekend, many competitors have family and friends cheering them on at courtside at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
There is one player, however, who has someone special supporting him. Dirk Koopman, a 41-year-old Portland, Ore., resident, who works as a construction project manager, is being cheered on by his 100-year-old grandmother, Eleanor Rubinstein.
“My 100-year-old grandmother has always been part of our immediate family. She’s been part of the family on all of our trips and vacations growing up,” Koopman said. “There is nothing that we ever did that she wasn’t a part of.”
Rubinstein, who is also a Portland resident, began playing tennis in the 1960s and holds two USTA gold balls for winning National 90-and-over titles when she was in her early 90s.
Koopman credits his grandmother for shaping his competitiveness in tennis. “Her competitiveness and intensity and everything else. … I have her genes. I definitely know where I got that. It’s from her,” he said. “She’s always been a unique, close and special part of our family and to me.”
Koopman’s parents are part-time residents in the desert and spend time in the Coachella Valley during the year.
“When we qualified for Nationals, it was pretty much a no-brainer that my parents were going to come down early to be here so they could watch,” he said. “My grandmother, when she found out, she pretty much told them that she’s coming down with them. It was a pretty easy decision.”
Koopman says having his grandmother supporting him during his matches at the League National Championships means everything to him.
“My entire life she’s been there like a second mom,” he said. “I know she lives every point like I do on the court. It’s the first time I’ve been fortunate to make Nationals, and for her to be here, it’s very special.”
Watching her grandson play in a USTA League National Championship has been a thrill for Rubinstein. “We love to watch him play,” she said. “He’s a fine performer. He plays a good game and he’s a good kid. I love the game. It’s an amazing game.”
In her lifetime, Rubinstein has seen many historical events. During World War II, she served in the American Red Cross. She called the experience “an amazing time of my life.”
Today, Rubinstein is amazed to see all of the advances in modern technology. “The changes are probably as big as anything. All of the new things, the telephones, I never thought I would live to see it,” she said.
Rubinstein, whose favorite player to watch was Jimmy Connors, will turn 101 in April.
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