Get to Know: Ga. Tech's
Pat Mitsch | November 4, 2016
Whether you see him on the tennis court or on the basketball court, Christopher Eubanks looks like he belongs.
The Georgia Tech junior hits serves and forehands with impressive power – his serve was clocked at 129 mph … two years ago – and his 6-foot-7 frame blends right in with the Yellow Jackets’ frontcourt when he joins the varsity hoops team for a pickup game. And, thanks to a longtime relationship with Donald Young and his family, Eubanks carries himself with purpose, as he continues his progression toward a pro career.
The ITA’s No. 5-ranked singles player in the country displayed his prodigious talents – and developing consistency – in his 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-2 first-round win over Texas’ Yuya Ito at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, after which USTA.com chatted with him. ADVERTISEMENT
USTA.com: Your power is easily visible. What do you still need to develop?
Christopher Eubanks: Just consistency. Getting my serve to a level where I feel good, knowing that I’m going to hold, and developing my serve to the point that it’s an Isner-type weapon. ... I know what that’s like to face a guy that you know is coming with their serve, and if you get your racquet on it, you better make it. I want to just continue to develop my serve like that. From the ground, I think I move pretty well for a guy my size, and I think I can redirect pace and absorb pace pretty well, so from the ground, I feel really comfortable. The more I can better my serve, the more I can continue to rise.
USTA.com: Have you clocked your serve?
Christopher Eubanks: In Atlanta (at the BB&T Atlanta Open), two years ago, in doubles, I played with Donald (Young), my fastest I’d ever clocked was I think 129. This year, in Atlanta, the clock was off, so I don’t want to go with those numbers. Reilly (Opelka) even told me that the average first serve for him and John was about 119, so I knew it was pretty slow. There were a couple times where I tried to juice it up, and I looked at it, and it was 115, and I was like, “This has to be wrong.”
USTA.com: When did you start developing your power?
Christopher Eubanks: I think when I got to be about 14, I started practicing with Donald every day, and I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to hang with him from the ground. I was with him all the way up until he was No. 38 (in the ATP rankings), and when you’re practicing with him every day, you realize, “If I really want to try to make this practice competitive, I have to play like a professional. I have to take advantage of the short balls and just go for it.” It was a huge learning curve for that because there were some days that it wasn’t going in. I just had to stick with it and know that it was going to pay off in the long run.
USTA.com: How did you get to know Donald Young and his family?
Christopher Eubanks: His parents, when they moved down to Atlanta from Chicago, ran a tennis facility about five minutes from my house. I was about 7 or 8 at the time. My dad was coaching me right up until I was about 13. Then he didn’t really have the time as much because he was working a lot. So he told me after school – I was a freshman in high school at the time – that I would get picked up for his parents’ academy – they ran an after-school program – and I would go work the after-school program with the kids. Afterward, I’d be able to practice with Donald when he was in town. And when he wasn’t in town, his dad would teach me. That’s when I started going there five days a week, sometimes six.
USTA.com: Were you serious about tennis until that point?
Christopher Eubanks: I was definitely serious about it, but it’s a weird dynamic. I’d always said when I was younger, “I definitely want to be a pro.” But when I was about 12 or 13, my dad started putting me in the 18s in a lot of tournaments, and I didn’t really understand why I was losing a lot. I was like, “Maybe the pros are going to be out of reach for me.” But when I got around Donald and got to get better and better, that’s when I got back to, “Maybe I could do this one day.”
USTA.com: How did you start playing tennis?
Christopher Eubanks: My dad started teaching me. I have an older brother, and when I came along, my dad was teaching him, and in order to get me out of the house, get me to do something, he wanted to take me to the courts, as well. So I started off just watching my dad teach my brother, and when I got to the age when I could walk and hold a racquet, my dad put a racquet in my hands, and we just started going from there.
USTA.com: When did you decide that college was the path you wanted to take?
Christopher Eubanks: I think when I got to be around 16 or 17, I just wanted a big school to look at me. I wasn’t that highly recruited – I didn’t play a lot of tournaments. Donald’s dad, he asked me to take some time off from playing tournaments just to focus on developing. I think it was about an eight- or nine-month period where I didn’t play any tournaments, and I had to start back off in the small tournaments to build my way back up. At that point I was like, “Are you sure this is going to work out? I just want to go to a big school. I want to have that experience.” And his dad just kept reassuring me, “You’re going to go to a big school. Don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine.”
USTA.com: Did you want to stay close to home?
Christopher Eubanks: Initially, I wanted to go to one of the bigger, college-experience schools, one of the bigger football, basketball schools that you really hear about. Coach Kenny (Thorne) and Derek (Schwandt) did a really good job in reinforcing the fact that staying home would be an amazing experience – being from Atlanta, being able to play all of your matches in your hometown. Friends and family get to come out to the matches. That’s something that you can’t really describe.
Another huge force was that I’d be able to practice with Donald every day. Our coaching staff is very accepting when pros are in town. Robby Ginepri, when he was on tour, would come out to practice. We had some other guys, as well, and when they’re around, (Thorne) was good about saying, “Hey, these guys aren’t going to be around that often. Let’s maximize the time you’re going to be able to practice from them.” Everything just kind of lined up right.
USTA.com: What do you like to do for fun, when you get some down time?
Christopher Eubanks: Play basketball. I played growing up – never organized, my dad was always tennis-oriented – but I would sneak my way around my high school. Around that time I wasn’t really playing a lot of tournaments, and when I could, I would just run scrimmages with our basketball team (at Westlake High School).
USTA.com: You ever play with the Georgia Tech team?
Christopher Eubanks: We’ll run some pick-up games every now and then, but for the most part, their coaching staff is very in tune to tennis, so they make sure to always give me a hard time and say, “Get out of here before you get hurt.” I sneak in when I can, but I still know where I belong.