May 25, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
When Christopher Eubanks nets up this afternoon against Texas A&M Shane Vinsant, it might feel like an end as the sophomore will be the last Georgia Tech men’s tennis player to play this season. Really, though, his kickoff match in the NCAA singles tournament in Tulsa is the beginning of a beginning.
The 2016 men’s ACC player of the year is lining up a busy summer, as are teammates, and this will be the 7th-seeded Eubanks’ launch toward what he and head coach Kenny Thorne hope will be a bigger and better 2016-17 season for the Yellow Jackets after falling in the second round of the NCAA team tournament.
Eubanks may not travel to Europe this summer, as he did last summer to play double at Wimbledon, but he won’t find time for vacation. He hasn’t been on one since, “I was 9 or 10.”
No big deal. This time of year, it’s all about adding game.
“Probably not; I don’t really see it coming,” he said of a possible weekend at the beach before fall semester begins. “It comes along with the territory. I’ve just kind of accepted it. Just put the work in this summer and try to get better.”
Eubanks has been pretty good already.
He’ll carry a record of 34-6 into the NCAAs, where he won a first-round match last year before falling in the round of 32.
The first round match in Tulsa will be different in several ways.
First, none of Eubanks’ teammates will be around. He’s the only Jacket to receive a bid to either the NCAA singles or doubles tournaments.
For the third straight summer, Schwandt will help coach the USTA men’s team comprised of eight top NCAA players as they participate in several pro tournaments. Eubanks may not play in every one, but he’ll be involved.
“[The schedule] hasn’t been finalized, but it’s good for Derek to be with those players, and it’s good for those players to be with Derek,” said Thorne. “I don’t think [Eubanks] will go too many weeks this summer.”
Eubanks has never played Vinsant (22-15), and will do just a little scouting.
“You may not know them, but they may also not know you,” he said of his first-round draw. “You go in blind, but with a little more of a clear head that you have to play your game. The only thing that you can control is how you play yourself.”
The rest of the summer schedule is TBD.
“We’re still trying to iron out the tournaments that I’ll play,” Eubanks said. “We’ll cement that after NCAAs. It’ll be mainly in the States, [ATP] Futures and Challenger [tournaments]. I’m working on getting my ATP ranking as high possible. As of now, no [European trips], but it’s not off the table.”
After earning a wildcard entry into last the ATP’s 250-point BB&T Challenge at Atlantic Station last season, Eubanks will likely have to play through a qualifying tournament to gain a berth there this summer.
The BB&T officials generally alternate a college wildcard annually between players from Tech and Georgia, and they’ve already given a nod to a Bulldog.
Eubanks’ tournament schedule isn’t set, but a big part of his summer plan is.
Strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley, who also worked with the men’s basketball team, who accepted an opportunity to work with the Clemson men’s basketball team after Tech men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory parted ways with the Yellow Jackets, laid down a plan for Eubanks before his departure.
Tech’s new strength coach, Dan Taylor, started this week, and he’ll monitor that program for the lean, 6-foot-7 rising junior netter.
“He’s got to get stronger,” Thorne said of Eubanks. “He’s done a good job of that. He’s going to stay on that. Summer is also a great time to get some smaller pro tournaments in, and he’s going to get an opportunity to do that.
“Mike set something up for the whole summer. The new coach . . . we’ve been talking, and he’s going to be talking with Mike about what we’ve done so far. It’s not going to change drastically. He’s excited to keep that progression going.”