Eubanks Living His Wimbledon Dream One Round At A Time

Christopher Eubanks (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 12, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

It has been an unforgettable Wimbledon fortnight for likable American Christopher Eubanks. His debut has read like nothing short of a best-selling novel – but it’s all been true.

Round by round, the 27-year-old son of a Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, who doesn’t come from a sports family, has gone out on courts big and small around the All England Club – simply playing good, smart, gutsy tennis – and won them all. Eubanks came from behind to beat Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro in four sets in the first round; upset popular No. 12 seed Cameron Norrie, the top British player, in four sets in the second round; and Australia’s Christopher O’Connell in three tie-break sets to prevail in the third round.

“I feel like I’m living in a dream right now,” Eubanks said on Monday afternoon, after winning his fourth straight match of the grass-court major with a five-set, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 triumph over World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, twice a Grand Slam semifinalist. The win was his first over a Top-5 opponent in his career and it made him the first American man to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in his main-draw debut. “This is absolutely insane when you paint all of the context.”

When the 6-foot-7 Eubanks arrived at the All England Club last week to play in his first Wimbledon main draw in his six-year career, he had just captured his first ATP Tour singles title in a 250-series grass-court warmup in Mallorca, Spain, that lifted his career tour-level win-loss record to 21-33. In eight major appearances, he had never advanced past the second round.

Suddenly, after being ranked in the 200s for much of career and toiling mostly on the ATP Challenger Tour circuit with mixed results and dwindling confidence, Eubanks has cracked the Top 100 with his chip-and-charge game and attitude. After his fourth Wimbledon victory – and ninth straight overall – his ATP Live Ranking has soared to No. 31 as he readies to face World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday. He has already earned more than $400,000 for his triumphs at SW19.

“The grass and I, we’ve had a very, let’s say, strenuous relationship over the years,” Eubanks said in one of his post-match interviews Monday. “But right now it’s my best friend.”

For someone who played collegiately at Georgia Tech while first studying to be an engineer, then took up a side gig commentating for Tennis Channel during his downtime from the Tour, the unexpected success the journeyman Eubanks is enjoying and embracing has truly been refreshing. After receiving some valuable pre-tournament mentoring via text messages on how to move on grass from Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters as well as encouragement from four-time major champion Naomi Osaka – plus having fellow American star and friend Coco Gauff in his box Monday – Eubanks is the last remaining American man of the 13 who began play in the tournament’s main draw last week.

“I’m around enough tennis players to be able to pick their brain, hear the way that they look at certain things,” Eubanks articulated in his post-match press conference. “That has had a bigger impact on how I look at sport and how I look at tennis and my career, as opposed to just being so much on my family. I think my family has done a great job of helping make me, I would say, more well-rounded outside of sport, just to be a good person.

“From the tennis side, I think I’ve been fortunate to be around some really, really incredible people, some really incredible athletes. I think that’s had probably a larger influence speaking specifically on the tennis, not me as a person.”

After beating Tsitsipas behind 13 aces and 53 winners, three breaks off his opponent’s serve and by winning 46 of 72 points at the net, Eubanks remarked in his press conference: “Dream come true. Yeah, it’s tough to really put into words, but to be able to come out today and play the way that I did, just kind of take everything in, it’s surreal. Everything from realizing that I have two credentials at Wimbledon for the rest of my life, to checking my phone and seeing my name as an ESPN alert, to realizing how much I disliked grass at the beginning of the grass-court season, to now look at where I am …

“I just think the entire experience all together has just been a whirlwind. It’s been something that you dream about. But I didn’t really know if that dream would actually come true. …

“I think it’s slowly starting to rub off on me where when I step foot on the court, ‘Hey, I can play at this level, I belong at this level.’ I just have to go out there and actually believe it. Be okay with giving it everything I have. Whatever the result is it is.”

Djokovic would welcome earlier Wimbledon start times on show courts

After winning his suspended fourth-round match against Hubert Hurkacz on Monday afternoon, a day after time ran out Sunday night due to a Wimbledon-mandated 11 p.m. municipal curfew, seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic said in his press conference that he would welcome earlier start times on the All England Club show courts.

This year, daily play on Centre Court has commenced at 1:30 p.m., while No. 1 Court has started at 1 p.m. Typically, the other majors have started play on their center courts at 11 a.m. None of the other majors have curfews.

Besides the Djokovic-Hurkacz tussle, the Wimbledon curfew rule impacted earlier matches between Andy Murray and Stefanos Tsitsipas, which was suspended last Thursday and completed the next afternoon; and last Friday’s match between Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, which the defending champion Djokovic won with just minutes to spare.

“Obviously, curfew is probably something that is much more difficult to change, I understand, because of the community and the residential area we are in,” Djokovic said in his Monday press conference. “I think the matches could be pushed at least to start at 12:00. I think it would make a difference.”

Evert driven to tears by Svitolina’s victory over Swiatek

Following 76th-ranked wild card Elina Svitolina‘s dramatic three-set, 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory over World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, ESPN analyst and three-time Wimbledon champion Chrissie Evert fought back tears as she spoke about the context of the Ukrainian’s two-hour, 51-minute quarterfinal triumph – one of fighting for her country and her celebration of motherhood, too – which advanced her to play No. 42 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in her second Wimbledon semifinal.

“One of the most touching matches I’ve ever seen on Centre Court. … To see her so inspired … and playing so well is just very touching for me,” Evert shared with ESPN commentator and fellow Hall of Famer Cliff Drysdale.

By the numbers

Elina Svitolina‘s 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2 quarterfinal victory over World No. 1 Iga Swiatek was her seventh career win against a No. 1. In reaching her second Wimbledon semifinal, Svitolina has defeated four major champions: Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka and Swiatek.

Italy’s Jannik Sinner joined select company following his quarterfinal victory against No. 92 Roman Safiullin of Russia. The No. 8 seed became just the third Italian man to reach a Wimbledon semifinal.

“Quotable …”

“When tomorrow comes, it’s going to be another match. It’s going to be me stepping on court. Very well could have been first round Wimbledon, second round. It just so happened that we’re going to be in the quarterfinals, which is a big stage.”

Christopher Eubanks of the United States, on his self-belief and expectations prior to meeting World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals.