July 18, 2017
The Good Word | Matt Winkeljohn
Christopher Eubanks won’t turn pro for a year, but Georgia Tech’s tennis ace will not be a newbie when he plays for pay against the likes of Roger Federer.
He’s already been there and done some of that, and on Sunday he expanded his resume by playing on grass — in a pro tournament — for the first time.
No, it wasn’t Wimbledon, but not long after Eubanks’ favorite player won a record 19th Grand Slam title with a straight-set victory over Marin Cilic at the All-England Club, Eubanks debuted stateside on the soft courts.
He fell 4-6, 6-3, 1-6 Sunday to India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan in qualifying at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open in Newport, R.I. That’s an ATP 250-point tournament, where he received a wildcard entry only to match up against the top-seeded qualifier in Ramanathan, who’s ranked No. 168 in the world.
Before playing, Eubanks said, “It will be an interesting experience. I’ve hit on grass, but not played on it. The bounces can be uneven . . . I’ll try to get to the net as quick as I can and put pressure on guys to make passing shots.”
Eubanks has become something of a veteran at professional tournaments. Next week, he’ll play in the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station — also an ATP 250-point event — for the third time.
Last month, he fared quite well in a pair of ITF Futures events in Winston-Salem, N.C.
First, he captured a tournament title with a 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (6) win over former Tech standout Kevin King in the title match. He and King, who served as a volunteer assistant for the Yellow Jackets while coming off double hip surgery, were runners-up in doubles title there.
After that, his world singles ranking reached an all-time high of No. 455. It’s 459 today.
One week later, he and King won the doubles title, and Eubanks won four singles matches — including a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (2) semifinal win over King — before he fell 4-6, 4-6 in the title match to No. 400-ranked Tommy Paul.
Last week, Christopher and Brandon Holt lost in the round of 16 in doubles, and Eubanks lost in the round of 32 in an ATP Challenger tournament in Winnetka, Ill.
On track to graduate next May with a degree in business management, Tech’s two-time ACC Player of the Year oozes tennis. When he’s not playing, he’s very often practicing, working out to get stronger for the sport, or digesting the game.
He watches on TV, “A lot; probably too much,” Eubanks said. “The main thing is I kind of watch and see how I would play the point, the shots I would try to hit. I kind of learn to see if they hit the same shot. Was it the right shot in that situation?
“If I watch a match from beginning to end, I can see the adjustments. It’s interesting to see changes in strategy.”
Sporting career records at Tech of 90-33 in singles, including 65-12 the past two years, and 53-42 in doubles, he’ll enter his senior season 30 victories away from the school record for singles wins. Guillermo Gomez was 119-38 from 2007-11.
But Eubanks is not all about tennis.
He’s an enormous fan of the Falcons, likes the Braves and Hawks and the Westlake High School graduate is excited to see Tech’s football team as the Jackets return nine starters on offense and eight on defense.
Christopher also volunteers time to help the sports information staff during men’s basketball games, and believes Josh Pastner has a good thing going on The Flats as he enters his second season as head coach.
“It’s pretty fun for me to see the inner workings of the department,” Eubanks said of his volunteer work. “Usually, I’m only able to help during basketball; whatever they need done. I’m a runner, for lack of a better word. I can’t wait to see what the guys are able to do.”
Speaking of running, there’s some of that involved in his training, yet more time is spent hitting the weights with strength and conditioning coach Dan Taylor. Living off campus with an older brother, who works in Atlanta, Eubanks is frequently on campus when he’s not traveling to play.
“Usually every day that [head coach] Kenny Thorne or whoever is around, but definitely I see Dan every single day besides the weekends. Only very rarely on Saturday, no Sundays,” he said of his workout/practice schedule. “If I have two weeks off, then we’ll focus on strength and building. If I have a tournament, we just do a lot of maintenance.
“We’re putting more of an emphasis on lifting. Running has died down, and it has been replaced with lifting and throwing weights around. If we do conditioning, it’s bike-based or elliptical. It depends on a person’s body. That kind of dictates how much running they do. Our programs are based on our individual needs.”
It can be difficult to predict practice partners, which sometimes include professional Donald Young of Atlanta, but you can be sure Eubanks is going to get plenty of work, and he knows for sure what he’s to do after graduation.
“A lot of the guys are out of town. We do our best, but for the most part it’s just Kevin and I. Chris Yun will jump in sometimes,” he said of his Tech teammates. “I know for a fact I’m going to be playing. That’s been the goal, and with the way I’ve progressed so far things are lining up for me to be successful.”