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Chris Eubanks will keep working to build on US Open loss

Georgia Tech standout drops singles debut in straight sets but gains experience

NEW YORK — After Chris Eubanks dropped four straight games to start the opening set in his US Open debut, he looked upward and screamed in frustration. A group of several dozen supporters seated in the south side bleachers began a loud chant that quickly filled the air:

We are A-T-L, We are A-T-L, Gooooo Eubanks …

“That was pretty awesome,” said Eubanks, an Atlanta native and soon-to-be senior at Georgia Tech. “It was pretty cool for the people to come all the way from Atlanta to support me.”

Eubanks wanted to make his Grand Slam debut a success. He hoped to build on winning his first two professional matches — one was against an opponent ranked 59th in the world — just over a month ago. But his day ended in frustration as numerous unforced errors led to a straight-set loss (6-2, 6-4, 6-2) to veteran Dudi Sela.

For Eubanks, a two-time NCAA All-American who was a wild-card invite to the US Open, it was a frustrating match from the start. He had three double faults in his first service game — the third coming as he was a point away from winning the first game. Eubanks had difficulty handling Sela’s serves early in the match, which put the 21-year-old in an early hole from which he was never able to escape.

“I didn’t serve well in the beginning, and even though you have to win three out of five [sets], you never want to put yourself in that situation,” Eubanks said. “Had I served better to start the match, perhaps things could have completely changed.”

Eubanks appeared to settle down in the second set, winning the opening game easily without yielding a point and later taking a 4-3 lead after an ace that demonstrated the power he’s capable of unleashing from his 6-foot-7 frame.

After Sela won four straight points to tie the set at four games, Eubanks was broken in his next service game after committing several unforced errors. From there the 32-year-old Sela breezed to victory with his ability to return many of Eubanks’ hard serves.

“He kept a lot of balls in play, and it was frustrating,” Eubanks said. “A lot of those balls, especially on my serve, don’t come back in most cases. They came back, and he made me have to come back with the goods. I did at times, and at times I didn’t.”

The match is part of the transitional experience for Eubanks, who is attempting to become a competitive professional in the midst of a college career. Eubanks will remain in New York to play doubles and in next week’s US Open college division. He will take the fall semester off to play in several ATP events.

“The rest of the year I’ll just be playing and training, trying to improve my game,” said Eubanks, who will return to Georgia Tech in January. “I think what I’m doing [in ATP events] shows me how I can measure up against top competition. The summer’s been good, and I’m excited to keep it going.”

Eubanks’ coach at Georgia Tech, Kenny Thorne, was proud despite the loss.

“These experiences will only help Chris,” Thorne said. “One thing I know about him is that he’ll get better from what he takes from these matches.”

After finishing a postmatch meal, Eubanks put on his Atlanta Braves hat and walked out to the US Open grounds. An older couple stopped him just outside the media center.

“Great job,” they said, congratulating a player they probably had never seen before Monday.

Eubanks smiled, said thank you and kept walking the grounds that he hopes will become familiar. Even though he lost his US Open singles debut, he was able to earn some respect.

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.