Strange things started happening to Chris Eubanks earlier this year.
People stopped him for selfies and autographs as he walked through the Miami Open. He took time out of his day off to visit the sponsor’s suite and was kind enough to accommodate some executives and their guests.
It’s not the sort of thing typically experienced by players in his position, who received little attention during his first five seasons as a professional tennis player and is just a month away from his 27th birthday. But a few days earlier, a tearful video of Eubanks went viral after being told he was finally in the top 100 after winning an early round. Now he’s in the Miami quarterfinals, and it looks like everyone wanted a piece of him.
“I never expected this to happen,” he said at the time, his eyes glowing with attention as he walked through the back of Hard Rock Stadium.
Four months later, Mr. Eubanks is quickly adjusting to it.
On Saturday, a day after defeating Britain’s top player Cameron Norrie in front of a packed first court crowd, Eubanks tried again, knocking out Australia’s Chris O’Connell in a nostalgia-style Wimbledon match. A big serve, a short rally and three tie-break sets all went Eubanks’ way.
Friday brought thrills as he defeated a Wimbledon semifinalist and a hometown crowd in Norrie. During Saturday’s warm-up, Eubanks looked up at the stands and suddenly saw himself playing on the court where John Isner and Nicola Mahut finished 70-68 over three days in 11 hours and 5 minutes in 2010. Noticed. in the fifth set.
“That was kind of cool,” said Eubanks, taking a moment to take it all in. Then he focused on serving, playing aggressively, and finishing points when he got the chance. “I’ve done a pretty good job of focusing on each game individually, without focusing too much on the magnitude of what’s going on.”
And after making 23 aces, Eubanks was scheduled for the Round of 16 on Monday against world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“The whole game was on his racket and I couldn’t do anything,” a dazed O’Connell said of Eubanks when the match ended. O’Connell faced Eubanks once in a minor league tennis tournament in South Korea last year. Saturday’s opponent looked nothing like the error-prone player he faced a year ago.
“He didn’t miss it,” said O’Connell. “He’s confident and playing incredible tennis.”
Eubanks’ journey stands out
It can happen at grand slams too. The journeyman caught fire after months of struggling in the minor leagues and made it all the way to the bottom of the tournament. Even by those standards, Eubanks’ trip stands out both for its improbability and for the reason it happened.
Let’s go back to his teenage years growing up in Georgia in the early 2010s. His tennis-loving father was a Baptist minister, so his mother had to accompany him to most of his Sunday games. At the time, Eubanks was not well-respected by the US Tennis Association and was not worthy of its support. That was after college when he received a $100,000 grant from the USTA to fund his professional career.
The coronavirus pandemic arrived just when Eubanks felt he was starting to understand his game. He qualified for the Australian Open and boosted his confidence with several Challenger Tour second division victories. When the tour resumed after the disruption caused by the pandemic, he felt he had to start over.
Eubanks and his agent got along.
After the win against Norrie, Eubanks said, ‘Look, if by next year I’m still 200 and the injury hasn’t affected me, I could use my time to do other things. ’” Eubanks recalled. “If it’s about 200, it’s not that gorgeous.”
Eubanks, who studied business after majoring in engineering at Georgia Tech, thus made occasional appearances in the commentary booth on the Tennis Channel, which helped him better analyze his own game during the match. he believes.
“Do all the little things”
Last year, the 6-foot-7 Eubanks, described by opponents as a “big game” for his powerful style, decided to make some changes. After years of cutting corners and trying to build a tennis career on the cheap, he followed a consistent routine and spent money on a full-time coach.
Every practice or gym session had a plan and most followed a schedule. He began to focus on rest and became more careful about what he ate. Even if he felt fine after a training session or a match, he turned to a physical therapist to take care of him.
“Just make sure you’re doing all the little things,” he said.
In small tournaments, sometimes we were getting 4-5 wins a week.
USTA general manager of player development Martin Blackman said following the routine is both the easiest and most difficult thing for players to learn. Anyone can concentrate for a week or he for a month, but the lack of immediate results can make a player wonder if diligence makes any difference.
Blackman, who has known Eubanks since he was a teenager, said his good side is evident given his physical characteristics and talent.
“It’s amazing how he was able to get on his feet so quickly,” Blackman said.
Eubanks needed to win two qualifying rounds to qualify for the Miami Open in March. Reaching the quarterfinals on hard courts, where American players grow, is another thing. Making it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon was a completely different matter, as he had never played in the main draw and was so unfamiliar with the ground that he had to ask where the practice courts were when he arrived a week earlier. It was about
Eubanks, who had ranked for the biggest tournaments after Miami and had some financial security, wanted to see if he could turn those solid months into a consistent professional life. returned to the minor leagues. He competed in a series of hard-court events in South Korea and continued to score wins and ranking points. He then headed to Europe for a hard week of training and clay-court preparation for the French Open, but the slower surface didn’t play to his strengths and he was eliminated in the first round. Then we went to play on the lawn.
he hated it A month ago, Eubanks told his friend and former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters that it was a “stupid” competitive side.
She told him not to worry about anyone who could serve as well as he did. Bend your knees and focus on the movement. Stop stepping to change direction and take a few more small steps to avoid slipping anywhere. His coach gave him similar advice. Hearing that from Clijsters felt different.
Eubanks said he feels easier and more confident each week, especially since winning the ATP Tour title on grass in Mallorca, Spain, the week before Wimbledon. The next day he was asking for directions to the All England Club’s practice court.
“I think it’s slowly, slowly growing,” Eubanks said with a smile after his victory over O’Connell. “I think you could say it’s my favorite surface at the moment.”