Port Washington tennis star Thea Rabman gets thrill of a lifetime playing at Wimbledon

Port Washington tennis star Thea Rabman gets thrill of a lifetime playing at Wimbledon
Port Washington's Thea Rabman competed in the Wimbledon Junior Tournament for the first time on July 8. Photo credit: Louis Rabman.

There was so much to take in.

The beautifully-manicured grass courts. The history around every corner. The plaques commemorating past champions going back more than a century.

The famous concession stands selling strawberries and cream.

The grounds of Wimbledon tennis tournament (or as it’s referred to in London, “The Championships”) is the most famous and revered location in the entire sport. Champions are made and re-affirmed there, and it’s the place every person who ever picks up a racquet dreams of one day playing.

Thea Rabman got to live that dream last week.

The 18-year-old former Schreiber High School star, one of the top junior players in America, is headed to play for reigning NCAA national champion University of North Carolina in about a month.

But on July 8 she got to play at the famous grounds at SW 19, at Wimbledon, for the first time.

In 2022 Rabman tried to qualify for the junior championships, but those matches are played offsite. This year, she got the whole experience, and she and her father Louis savored every moment.

“It was really exciting and really cool to be so close to the pros and everything there,” Rabman said upon returning home this week. “It’s something you see on TV and hope to get to play at one day, so the whole thing was really great.”
Rabman flew to England last week but wasn’t even sure she’d be in the main draw of the Girl’s tournament; with her World ranking of No. 52, she just missed the cutoff for automatic entry into Wimbledon.
But given that she was just a few spots away from getting in, she knew there was a chance other players ranked ahead of her would withdraw and that Rabman wouldn’t have to go through qualifying.
And that’s exactly what happened; two days before the draw was made Rabman learned she’d be in.
She drew Australian Taylah Preston in the first round, and despite battling back in the second set, Rabman fell, 6-1, 7-6 on Court 10.
“It was hard because you weren’t able to practice on the main courts until your match,” Rabman said. “I was definitely nervous in the first set, she’s a really good player and the atmosphere was so different than usual. And it was so awesome to see so many people at the match cheering for me.
“When I was warming up, (Wimbledon men’s quarterfinalist) Holger Rune was warming up right next to me!”
Rabman made her Junior Grand Slam debut in 2021 at the U.S. Open, when she won a round in front of dozens of family and friends from Port Washington.
In January of this year, she won a round in the Australian Open junior girls event in Melbourne before falling to Rebecca Munk Mortensen of Switzerland in Round 2.
 “I got to go to the Melbourne Zoo which was so cool,” Rabman said after that event. “I also went to the south Melbourne market and Queen Victoria market which was also such a fun experience.”
In addition to competing in singles, last week Rabman also got a chance to play doubles at Wimbledon, as she and her partner, Mortensen, fell in the first round to the seventh-seeded duo of Nikola Bartunkova and Nina Vargova.
With her junior career coming to a close soon, Rabman said she’s very excited to get to North Carolina.
According to UNC associate coach Tyler Thomson, Rabman was a top recruiting priority and he’s excited about her joining an already-stacked Tar Heel team.
“We are so excited for Thea to join our program,” Thomson said. “She’s very passionate about getting better and about being a Tar Heel. Thea’s game is really versatile, and it will be fun to coach her and to see her grow.”
Rabman said she closely followed UNC’s run to the championship this spring, as the Tar Heels beat N.C. State to win their first team title.
“Seeing the college tennis atmosphere and how well they did really made me want to be a part of it even more,” she said. “I talked to a few of the girls and I can’t wait to get there.”
Rabman is scheduled to move to Chapel Hill in mid-August, but she still hopes to play one more U.S. Open juniors tournament.
Whether she gets directly in or not will depend on her results over the next month, specifically how she does at the prestigious USTA Nationals in San Diego in early August. If she can win a few rounds there, she’ll certainly get into the main Open draw.
“If I get a chance, I’m definitely going to play the Open,” Rabman said. “Not sure how it will work yet but if I’m in I’ll definitely come up (from UNC) and play.”


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