Aug. 4, 2016
It takes a lot to wear out Christopher Eubanks — especially when it comes to tennis.
Yet there was a look of relief on Eubanks’ face on Wednesday morning as he took a seat and put on headphones prior to joining the hosts of the morning show on 680 The Fan in their private area in Atlantic Station.
“I’m actually pretty happy I’ll be able to kind of take the day off,” said Eubanks, of his first off-day from play in the BB&T Atlanta Open, following four straight days during which he played three singles matches and a grueling, three-set doubles match. “I think the body’s asking for a rest so I’m going to listen to it today. Playing at this level, four consecutive days was definitely tough. I’m thankful for the opportunity, I’m learning from it and hopefully I can get the body well and be ready to go.”
Playing in his second straight BB&T, Eubanks played his way into the tournament’s main draw over the weekend by recording straight-sets wins over American Tommy Paul (6-2, 7-5) on Saturday, and Brazilian Thiago Monteiro (6-4, 7-5) on Sunday — he also beat Jackets teammate Cole Fiegel to get into the qualifiers. But on Monday night, he lost, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5) in a hard-fought Tournament opening-round match against American Reilly Opelka.
He had little time to dwell on his elimination from singles, as on Tuesday night, Eubanks made his 2016 doubles debut with new partner Zack Kennedy, a senior at Georgia State — he transferred from Clemson following his freshman year. The duo spotted Monteiro and partner Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan a set before outlasting them, 3-6, 7-6, 10-8.
The match was a nice first step as a team for the pair of Westlake High School mates, who are hardly strangers.
“We actually know each other really well,” said Eubanks. “We complement each other in different aspects but at the end of the day we’re both really big guys. Two big guys, big serves, who like to rip the ball. A lot doubles teams try to pair guys to complement each other. We have a little bit of that as well but at the end of the day we know what we’re going to do well. I know what he has, he knows what I have. I know what he brings to the table, he knows what I bring to the table.”
“[Tuesday] night we were able to get it clicking right at the right time,” he added. “The first set we started off a little rough. I think we had to brush off a little bit of rust from those years, years ago of playing with each other. But I think we’re kind of back at it. We’re feeling good now and can’t wait to play [Friday].”
With that first match out of the way, the humongous pair — Eubanks stands 6-7, Kennedy, 6-5 — promises to be a handful for anyone that gets in their way.
Ironically, the first test for Eubanks and Kennedy was supposed to be Donald Young, with whom Eubanks reached the semifinals at last year’s BB&T before losing to the legendary Bryan brothers, 6-2, 6-4, and his partner, Rajeev Ram.
“It would have been extremely odd,” Eubanks said with a smile. “Donald and I had talked about the hypothetical of that happening and a little trash talk ensued. It definitely would have been an interesting dynamic to say the least just because Zack has come out to practice with Donald and I. We all know each other pretty well on the court. Rajeev knows me pretty well and Donald, was going to, I’m pretty sure, give Rajeev all the notes he would have needed on Zack and I together. So it definitely would have been interesting. It didn’t happen so I’m not going to be too down about it. I’m just happy we were able to get a win [Tuesday].”
Eubanks’ summer isn’t over even after the BB&T. He’ll still have plenty to play for.
At the end of August, he’s slated to go to New York to participate in the U.S. Open Collegiate Invitational.
“It’s pretty much an event for the top-eight American college guys to go up to New York, get to play at the U.S. Open, all for a qualifying wild card spot at next year’s U.S. Open,” Eubanks said. “That’s going to be exciting. I can’t wait to get up there. I have hit at the courts at the Open before, two years ago, but to actually be able to play a match is going to be pretty cool, so I can’t wait.”
With all the travel Eubanks has already done this summer — including spending a couple of weeks practicing with the U.S. Davis Cup Team — you’d think he’d be eager for school to start so as to get off the road and relax a little.
“I don’t know about that,” he said, with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure once school really picks up in a couple of months I’m going to be reminiscing and wishing I had this time back. This is my fun. This is fun; training for me is fun. I’m just enjoying it, trying to get better. Hopefully I can have a really good Fall and bring Georgia Tech some type of national championship this coming Fall.”
Some type offered new possibilities, as in some other sport, after Tuesday afternoon, when Eubanks showed off his shot-making on a different court, the basketball court at Zelnak Center.
“Me and my buddy, Nick Kyrgios, who’s the 2 seed in singles here, decided to take a trip over there to get some shots up,” he said. “We’re shooting and he’s like, `Man, you don’t seem to be able to miss.’ He said, `I want to record this. I want to see how many you make out of 10.’ I rattle off 10 in a row. I have it on video. I can say that winning these matches were probably some of the best moments of my life but that right there was something that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over.”
Eubanks doesn’t realistically foresee representing Georgia Tech in basketball, even if new coach Josh Pastner comes calling.
“[Pastner’s] a very persuasive speaker. So, I may have to hear him out a little bit and see if they have an extra spot,” he kidded. “But I pretty much know for a fact that [Georgia Tech men’s tennis coach] Kenny [Thorne] won’t let that happen.”
The only court Tech fans can count on Eubanks playing is the court at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex. That starts shortly after he gets back from New York.
Having seen Davis Cup- and ATP-caliber talent over the summer, Eubanks is more confident than ever and filled him with great optimism about what’s next.
“I think it helped me a lot, especially in singles, realizing that my game, on any day, is good enough to compete with these guys,” he said. “As long as I keep my composure and I’m able to do what I do best and do it the best at crunch time, there’s no reason that I can’t at least be competitive with some of these guys. I got to see that along in practices with a lot of the other college guys, getting to play the Bryans, it just kind of reassured me that I’m on the right track.”