Port Washington’s Rabman enjoys U.S. Open experience, and college life despite scare

Port Washington’s Rabman enjoys U.S. Open experience, and college life despite scare
Port Washington's Thea Rabman, now a freshman at the University of North Carolina, competed in the U.S. Open Juniors last week. Photo credit; Sergio Llamera/ITF

Two weeks into life as a college freshman, Port Washington tennis star Thea Rabman had an experience all too familiar to any student under the age of 21.

She was in Chapel Hill, N.C., settling into life as a freshman on the national championship-winning Tar Heels women’s team.

Rabman, who graduated from Schreiber High School, was in the fitness center on Aug. 28, working out with her teammates and preparing to fly home to New York in a few days to compete in the US Open Juniors Tournament for the second time.

All of a sudden Jordan Conner, the fitness coach for UNC women’s tennis, got a text on her phone that required immediate attention.

The campus had just been put on complete lockdown. Close all doors and shelter in place.

“At first we thought it was a joke, like no way, but she said ‘no, this is serious,'” Rabman recalled a week later while here at the US Open. “And then people on the (nearby) football field started coming into our building, and everyone’s parents were texting, and it was a scary few hours.”

Eventually, Rabman said, word spread that the shooter was far from where they were, and had a very specific target in mind (UNC professor Zijie Yan was killed that day), and after four hours the 18-year-old was released.

It was a nerve-wracking day in what has otherwise been a smooth transition to college for Rabman, interrupted by competing at the Open last week.

In the girl’s main draw for the second time in three years, Rabman was defeated in the first round on Sept. 3 by Poland’s Zuzanna Pawlikowska, 6-4, 6-2, and in doubles Rabman partnered with Victoria Osuigwe, and lost a very close first-round match the following day to Japan’s Sara Saito and Naanaka Sato, 7-6, 7-5.

“It was a great experience; it’s always a great experience playing here at a Slam in New York,” Rabman said. “The crowd was great, my family was here, I just didn’t play my game as well as I would have liked.”

Rabman said she was very nervous for her singles match, and that “the heat really got to me, combined with the nerves and stress.”

“Everyone you play here is here for a reason, they’re really good,” Rabman said. “I knew it was going to be a tough match.”

In doubles Rabman and Osuigwe had leads in both sets but couldn’t quite prevail in their first time playing as a team.

Still, the future looks very bright for Rabman. She said her first few weeks at UNC have been fantastic, and that she’s quickly bonded with the tennis team, who last spring won the team national championship.

“Everyone on the team is so welcoming; I love every single one of them,” Rabman said. “I’m the only freshman so that’s a different dynamic, but they’ve all been so great.”
UNC head women’s coach Brian Kalbas, at the Open to coach Rabman and her teammate Fiona Crawley, who was in the women’s main draw, said he was thrilled to get Rabman on campus.
“We love her variety, her spunk, and she’s got such a great personality,” Rabman said. “We loved everything about her game, and we think she’s going to get a lot better in our program.”
With their top six players returning, the Tar Heels may not have a lot of playing time available for Rabman this spring. But she’s not complaining.
“Just getting to be in practice with them is great, and if I play, I play, whatever works best for the team,” she said. “I’m excited to step in and play with these great players.”



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