Chris Eubanks, or how to change hate for love thanks to Kim Clijsters and Tennis Channel
LONDON – Christopher Eubanks spoke a while back about a big desire.
“To be able to tell people that don’t know tennis:'(I played) a quarters of Wimbledon’. That’s a different level of respect,” he told Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton on the Ultimate Tennis League’s All On The Table podcast.
And this Monday, he got his wish. It was at the age of 27, and after a career that seemed to be stuck in the Challengers and Futures. Eubanks became a member of the Last Eight Club after a five-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and will have the opportunity to raise that “level of respect” against Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday. The date is on All England Club’s Court 1 for a place in the semifinals.
“A quarter at the French Open.. ‘Oh, that’s great, okay’. Quarters in Australia.. ‘Oh, cool!’ But a quarterfinal at Wimbledon? You know Wimbledon, the movie? The bad tennis movie? Wimbledon, yeah, of course you know Wimbledon. That’ll be my thing,” said the North American tennis player Chris Eubanks then, with his face full of excitement.
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In 2021, one of the tallest players on tour (2,01 meters) sat down with his agent to discuss the future of a career that wasn’t raising as expected, far from the big stages and without the juicy paychecks.
“I said, ‘listen, if I’m still 200 by next year and injuries haven’t played a part, I can do something else with my time.’ It’s not that glamorous to be 200th in the world, you know?”, Eubanks told.
As a way to be at important tournaments, he accepted a position as a commentator on Tennis Channel. His knowledge of the game, and his good loquacity made him the perfect match for the job, but so did his familiarity with the cameras: he acted as Arthur Ashe’s double in the documentary Citizen Ashe.
“Commentating tennis really helped me in the perception of my game on the court and developing a style,” he commented as quoted by The Tennis Podcast.
Chris Eubanks in his role as a commentator on Tennis Channel // SCREENSHOT TENNIS CHANNEL
His career began to find tastier instances thanks to having overcome some qualies and having received invitations that he took advantage of. He won matches at the US Open and Australia, he reached later the quarterfinals of the Miami Open. On the grass of Mallorca, a week before London’s Grand Slam, he won his first ATP title. He quickly changed his feelings for the surface.
“I hated it at first,” he said. Eubanks kicked off his successful grass-court campaign this year at the Surbiton Challenger. He lost there to a player with a much lower ranking than him. He promptly texted his friend Kim Clijsters, a former world number one, four-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Wimbledon semifinalist.
“I was just kind of frustrated,” he recounted. “I sent her a text, and I was like, ‘Grass is the stupidest surface to play tennis on. Why are we playing tennis on a very inconsistent surface?’ And you can’t even move on it.”he told the media in London.
Clijsters told him that someone who can serve as well as he can shouldn’t worry; “Bend your knees and focus on movement. Stop planting your foot to change direction, and take a few extra steps so you wouldn’t slip all over the place”, she adviced. It was the same thing his coach had told him, but coming from a champion like the Belgian felt different.
A month later, with a $430,000 check, a rise to the brink of the top 30 and a radical change in his tennis life, Chris Eubanks can say without hesitation, “It’s already my favorite surface.”