#TGW: Full of Holiday Cheer

Dec. 22, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

Christopher Eubanks has a pretty short list of things he wants to do during Christmas break.

“I want to be able to sit down and enjoy my Netflix subscription a little bit more,” said Eubanks, who puts Seasons 1 and 2 of “24” at the top of his list. “But who knows? I have a hard time sitting in one place and watching two or three movies back-to-back-to-back. I just feel like I’ve done nothing with my time. Hopefully I can get a few movies in but tennis is the only thing I actually have marked off on my calendar as to what I’ll be doing.”

No offense to Jack Bauer, but Eubanks prefers net flicks to Netflix, and while the holidays give him opportunity to spend more time with his family, something he cherishes, they also represent the period of time separating him from the start of practice for Georgia Tech’s spring season. After what transpired during the fall, it’s easy to understand why he can’t wait to get that going.

“Definitely I hope to use the momentum from the fall to have a really good spring and try to help provide my team with at least one point if not a couple, including doubles at every match,” said Eubanks, who was 25-21 in singles (including 7-11 playing at No. 1, and 7-1 playing at 2), and 24-16 in doubles (2-4 at 1, 10-5 at 2 and 2-1 at 3). “I want to be the guy that the team can count on. I really don’t think I did a good job of that last year. I had a few good wins, but I was kind of up and down. This year I want to be more rock solid, know we’re going to get a point no matter where I am or who I’m playing.”

Eubanks’ carried over momentum from his appearance over the summer in the BB&T Atlanta Open into the 2015 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. He knocked off No. 7 Nicolas Alvarez of Duke, then eliminated Herkko Pollanen from Ohio State and No. 20 Tom Fawcett of Stanford the next day before finally falling to No. 22 Andre Goransson of California in the semifinals.

Yet, as big a highlight as New York for Eubanks was getting updates of his Yellow Jackets teammates, who were playing at the Bulldog Scramble in Athens from teammate Nathan Rakitt.

“We had five or six other guys in Athens playing in the tournament,” he recalled. “So that was just as important to me as how I was doing. I wanted to make sure those guys were doing well. So I got updates through Nathan and tried to stay up on the team.”

That wasn’t the only time Eubanks and Rakitt were on the same wavelength. Rakitt, who mentored Eubanks the summer prior to his freshman season, teamed with him during the fall. The pair won two of their three matches, including both at the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional, in Gainesville, Fla.

It’s a pairing that both look forward to resuming in the spring.

“I really enjoy playing with Nathan,” said Eubanks. “I think our game styles complement each other. He loves being all over the net, I kind of adapt either to baseline or at the net. We kind of feed off each other. I kind of know what he’s going to do, when he’s going to do it. We had a pretty good fall. I can’t wait to see what this is going to bring for us and to the entire team in doubles.”

“He’s definitely been playing well,” said Rakitt. “We bond together pretty well on and off the court.”

Eubanks added that the Jackets will feature several solid teams.

“I think this year we’re going to do a much better job in securing the doubles point, hopefully in every match that we play, because with our team the doubles point is going to be huge,” he said. “There’s a new format this year, first team to six, no ad score, so it can go quick, so we just have to make sure we stay on it and we’re on it from the first ball.”

Eubanks believes the Jackets could be as strong in singles, especially with a healthy Carlos Benito and the ever-steady Cole Fiegel.

“Carlos is going to be our secret weapon,” he said. “He can absolutely light it up on any given day, and every day he’s getting healthier and healthier. Cole’s been rock solid since even before I got here. Cole had a really good year last year (his 24 wins in 2014-15 were fourth behind Eduardo Segura’s 29, Eubanks’ 26 and Benito’s 25). We know that Cole is going to give it his all.”

There’s also the strong underclass — all of whom tasted some success in singles or doubles at the Bulldog Scramble — including sophomores Michael Kay, who played singles and doubles with brother Casey, Elijah Melendez and Daniel Yun, who played singles and teamed up in doubles, and freshman Andrew Li, who played singles and got some valuable experience playing with Benito in doubles.

Thinking about the big things lying ahead is fun for Eubanks. Less fun, but certainly challenging is his physicality, trying to get bigger by working with strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley, something he’ll do until the Jackets resume practice in January.

“Definitely spending more time in the weight room with Bewley is going to be really big,” he said. “We’re going to start focusing a lot heavier on nutrition, to try to bulk me up a little bit. The offseason you’re able to practice and lift and practice, and that’s your day. It’s kind of like a two- or three-week period, where you can just kind of relax and focus on your craft because we jump right back into it first week of January and that’s going to be no easy task.

“We jump in [Jan. 13] with a double-header (against East Tennessee State, at 2:30 p.m. at Byers Complex, and Presbyterian, at 7:30) and then the MLK Invitational that weekend (vs. Oklahoma, Georgia and Ole Miss, who finished last season second, eighth and 17th),” he added. “So all the guys are going to be busting it this offseason so we can come back and make sure that we’re as prepared as possible.”

Eubanks is in the unenviable position of trying to put on — and KEEP on — weight during the holidays. It’s something that Eubanks admits has given the already driven Bewley fits.

“Definitely,” he said, with a big laugh. “I’ll get on the scale, and one day I’ll send him a text, ‘Hey, Mike, I’m a little bit over 170.’ Three days later I go back and I’m 165. I don’t know how it happens that fast. Mike just looks at me and says, ‘We’ve got to talk.’ We’re going to talk nutrition and make sure this offseason that I’m doing the right things, to try to not just put weight on, but actually keep it on.”

In the meantime, Eubanks plans to keep on hitting the weights, the training table and the court. He sees no point in taking time off from that last one.

“I prefer to just keep going just because it can get really easy to stop, and one day becomes two and two days becomes three, three becomes four,” he said. “When you take time off to the point where you start getting the itch, then that’s a good thing. I feel like it also can be kind of bad because you might have taken too long off. So until my body tells me I need to slow it down I just prefer to keep going and just take me on into the spring season.”

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