Matt Ruben grew up in Saco and was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball) at Thornton Academy. At Hobart College in Geneva., N.Y., in the late 1960s, Ruben became interested in tennis.

For the last seven years, Ruben, who lives in Fairfield, Conn., but still owns a home at Kinney Shores in Saco where he summers, has been a tennis official with the United States Tennis Association’s New England section. Earlier this month at a section awards banquet in Marlborough, Mass., Ruben was named the top USTA official for either professional or amateur tournaments in New England.

Ruben said the award was a surprise.

Ruben, 65, was nominated for the award by Ed Paige, the Fairfield University men’s and women’s tennis coach.

The sports he played in high school are far different from tennis, but Ruben said he had always been interested in tennis. Growing up, he never had the chance to play much until college.

“I was watching a match on television one time and thought I might like to get involved in officiating. I contacted a few tennis officials and asked how they got started,” he said.

Ruben officiates at mostly college matches and tournaments, but has done some pro tournaments. Ruben has served as a linesmen at the women’s professional New Haven Open at Yale University. The tournament is held in August.

“I’ve officiated college matches at Yale, Fairfield University and Boston College. I’ve done the NCAA regionals. U.S. Open qualifying tournaments and the Champions Tour (Senior pros) when it’s in New England,” he said.

At college matches, he could be the chair referee or a rover who has jurisdiction over two or more matches. At the New Haven Open or other professional matches, he would be a linesman. At college matches, Ruben sees himself as a facilitator.

“I help the match move along smoothly,” he said. “I make sure everything is fair and square. Normally, you can only overrule when asked by an opposing player. There’s a code of ethics in tennis.”

Ruben said the tennis rule book changes every year and he has to get certified each season.

“Matt handles situations calmly and addresses others before they become difficult. He’s proactive,” said Diane Cortese, the USTA New England Officials’ Committee chair.

“He knows the rules and is fair. For a college coach to nominate him, that’s an indication of the respect he has,” she said.

For Ruben, being an official affords him one of the best seats in the house.

“You get to watch good, sometimes great tennis and you’re part of the event,” said Ruben.

“Hopefully, you’re a small part. You want to maintain decorum and stay out of the way.”

Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH