National

A conversation with Chanda Rubin

Peter Francesconi | March 10, 2021


Chanda Rubin has been playing tennis all her life. She grew up in Louisiana, where she still lives, and turned pro in 1991, reaching a career-high No. 6 singles ranking in April 1996, the same year she won the Australian Open doubles title alongside Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. 

 

Rubin ended her pro career in 2006, finishing with seven WTA singles titles and 10 doubles crowns.

 

After her playing days, Rubin served three terms as a director-at-large on the USTA Board of Directors and also went back to school, earning a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Harvard. 

 

She also started the Chanda Rubin Foundation (in association with the Southern Tennis Patrons Foundation) to promote tennis and education. She also started a career in tennis broadcasting.

 

Rubin’s many honors include induction in the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2019, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, the USTA Service Bowl Award in 2003, the Arthur Ashe Leadership Award in 1997 and the WTA Most Improved Player Award in 1995.

 

Rubin recently talked with USTA.com about her career, her life and her thoughts on the state of the sport she loves.

Q: You have a lot going on in your life. How are you able to make all this work?

Rubin: I’m married with two kids currently in the house and during the pandemic I spend a good bit of the week with virtual homeschool with them. It’s been nice to have a little bit more time with the family and doing things here at home, but I’m still traveling and commentating.

 

Before the pandemic, in 2019, I probably traveled 25 or 26 weeks in the year, so it’s nice to be home a little bit more when the kids needed me to and to have that flexibility—and still be able to work. So, I’ve been very fortunate with that. But it has been very busy. Part of it is making sure I don’t overextend myself, and making sure I know where my priorities are—first and foremost, it’s my family and kids, and then broadcasting. I think all of that helps me to balance.

 

Who were and are your mentors or role models, in both your tennis career and also in your post-pro career as a broadcaster?

Rubin: When I was playing, it was the coaches I had, and in particular a coach named Benny Sims [former assistant head tennis coach at Harvard and a 2019 inductee into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame], who coached me during the second half of my career into my retirement from playing. I consider him a mentor. A lot of how I think about the game and talk about the game comes from how he and I would talk about things. That was important to me in terms of my growth.

 

After my pro career, I don't think I have one specific mentor or role model. I love learning and looking at how others in my environment view things—and seeing what works for them and what works for me. That process has been kind of fun. One of my first broadcasting gigs was in Miami working with Ted Robinson, and what stands out to me are the tips and advice he gave me. Also watching Lindsay Davenport and learning from the advice she gave me. And Billie Jean King, she’s always been someone I can text and ask questions of, and I’m grateful for that as well.

 

Zina Garrison has been a role model for me. I had a chance to practice with her when I was 15—and I got a sense of what things were like, along with [working with] someone who looks like me. Lately, it’s been fun working with Zina on our internet show and podcast called “Game Set Chat!” which started last March.

 

How about mentors in other aspects of your life?

Rubin: For me initially, the role models who were front and center were my parents. They were the reasons I got involved in tennis and learned to love it. They built a tennis court when they built the house they still live in. It was always tennis and always a family affair. They were role models in how to approach things, in giving it your best effort, in being a good sport—all these positive values that are still at the base of who I am. I’m really lucky in that respect, as well.

Chanda Rubin presenting the junior Davis Cup to team Japan at the USTA National Campus in 2019. (Credit: Manuela Davies)

How did you get started in broadcasting? What made you want to do this?

Rubin: I kind of fell into it a little bit. While I was playing, I did a guest appearance for a match with Mary Carillo at Wimbledon. We were talking tennis, and that was fairly easy. Then, I had a chance to work for Tennis Channel at the French Open. I still was trying to play and further my tennis career, but at the end of 2007, beginning of 2008, I was done playing and started thinking about what I might want to do. Part of me wanted to still try other things, since I had played tennis pretty much my entire life.

 

Mentally and emotionally, tennis was still this mixed bag. It wasn’t easy to get opportunities. I thought about the resume I had brought. I had kind of been out of mind because of injuries and ranking drops. I got my real estate license, went back to school and got my undergrad degree.

 

[In broadcasting], it was a little bit of a struggle the first four or five years to get consistent at it. I wanted to do more of it and get the sense of what my own voice could be in this arena. That’s the path I’ve been on and the last few years, and I’ve been doing more with Tennis Channel and that’s been a game-changer for me—having that consistency and just being allowed to go with it.

 

What challenges have you found in the broadcast profession?

Rubin: I wouldn’t necessarily call them challenges; they’re definitely things I hope I’ll continue to improve. But I hope the diversity in this area continues to improve, with different voices and backgrounds and more people given a chance. I still struggle to get [more] opportunities—in some cases it’s paying to go to a tournament and commentating, then breaking even.

 

Anyone trying to transition from one career to the next faces challenges. I hope it will become easier for players. People in the sport are trying to improve things for players.

 

What are your goals for your broadcasting career?

Rubin: I’d love to continue to work the major events and be a bigger part of that. One of the things I’ve been able to do more with Tennis Channel is work the Grand Slams. That was kind of a goal for me, and I’d love to continue to be a factor in all of those.

 

But honestly, the biggest goals are to just continue to evolve. A lot of what I’ve learned as a broadcaster has been just by doing it. You’re asked to go out and do an on-court interview, or host a ceremony—different things, literally on the fly. You have to be confident and comfortable enough to just do it. I hope to get better in that sense and just take on whatever is in front of me and knock it out of the park. That’s where the satisfaction comes. There’s no one day the same as the next; something is always a little bit different that you have to adjust to. This gives me the opportunity to broaden myself and adjust, and I’m enjoying that opportunity.

 

Can you speak about women in sports broadcasting—what trends are you seeing in the number of women, the jobs they’re performing, etc.?

Rubin: It seems like there are more women in the field of sports broadcasting who are being afforded more opportunities from working their way up through the ranks—and [there seem to be more] women working in different sports, even some considered more male-dominated sports, who are bringing real value. To see this is definitely inspiring. You don’t have to be limited by those past, perceived glass ceilings.

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