Chris Eubanks’ Wimbledon dream another beacon for Black tennis
The 27-year-old scores the biggest win of his career, advances to Grand Slam singles quarterfinal for first time
Normally when a 27-year-old is among the 200 best people in the world in their preferred line of work, one isn’t asking themselves if they are wasting their time professionally. But in the sport of tennis, that question is unfortunately too common for players unable to ascend into the top 100 or higher after years of trying.
For Christopher Eubanks, the deep contemplation over whether to keep playing that grueling individual sport weighed so heavily on his mind that he began a side career: broadcasting.
“Commentary has really helped my game, helped my ability to watch the match and play it to a style,” he said. “And I plan on continuing to do it.”
That sideline career has proven instrumental to Eubanks, as he is now way more than just a top-200 figure in tennis. He is now inside the top 40, an ATP Tour tournament champion and a Wimbledon quarterfinalist.
The 6-foot-7 athletic star set another career milestone in outslugging and outfoxing No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday in London, coming from 2-1 down to record the special 3-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-5, 6-4 victory. It also served as Eubanks’ first win over a top-10 player in his career, as well as his first trip to any Grand Slam singles quarterfinal.
“I feel like I’m living a dream right now,” he said in his on-court interview. “This is absolutely insane.”
It was a win over the elite Greek that encapsulated the perseverance Eubanks has exhibited in his career and the improvements he has made in the last year. In the first and third sets, Eubanks displayed a style that wasn’t consistent enough to hang with any of the game’s best players, committing unforced errors everywhere to go twice behind Tsitsipas.
But after being a set away from elimination, Eubanks reverted to the dynamic talent capable of overwhelming anyone not named Novak Djokovic (him overwhelming the 23-time Slam champion and seven-time Wimbledon winner remains to be seen). Eubanks’ powerful serve reappeared in the fourth and fifth sets. It was complemented by the aspects of his game that are no longer glaring weaknesses: his groundstrokes on both sides. His one-hand backhand was better than Tsitsipas’, who has one of the best in tennis. Eubanks’ forehand was the biggest non-serve stroke on court — incredible considering Tsitsipas’ forehand normally captures that crown.
Eubanks’ current nine-match win streak, from a maiden title on the Mallorca grass to remaining in the second week of Wimbledon, is the gift the Atlanta native deserves for the uncertain tennis journey he has lived. From not even being a top-2 player on his high school team to collegiate success at Georgia Tech, Eubanks’ road to his current destination is the opposite path of the world’s No. 4 singles player Coco Gauff, who has become a little sister to him. That bond they share was further evident with Gauff and her father seated in the tall man’s player box for his latest career-defining moment.
Unlike Gauff’s phenom status since she was 13, Eubanks has toiled in tennis’ unglamorous, punishing minor leagues after college — struggling at ATP Challenger and ITF futures events for five long years, wondering if his playing career would amount to much more.
Feeling destined for a playing career without solid financial stability, Eubanks turned to the Tennis Channel months ago for a color commentator and analyst role that he always sought. He couldn’t foresee, however, how beneficial working on television would be to untapping his playing potential.
“I think since I started doing a little bit of commentary, it really helped my perception on court,” he said after his convincing win over No. 12 seed Cameron Norrie. “I can take a little bit of the emotion out and say, ‘Hey, if I were watching this match and calling it, what would I be telling myself,’ and stop getting so emotionally charged when things don’t go my way. And there are certain times I might make errors, I might make mistakes, but if I’m in the booth I can say, ‘That’s a good error, that’s OK.’ That’s going to help me in the long run.”
Eubanks is part of the largest number of Black players, American or otherwise, on the ATP and WTA Tour. There are Americans such as Gauff, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Francis Tiafoe, Taylor Townsend, veteran player Bryan Shelton son Ben, Michael Mmoh, and Alycia Parks. The Black non-Americans include Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, Gael Monfils and Arthur Fils of France, Mikael Ymer and Elias Ymer of Sweden, Heather Watson of Britain, Jasmine Paolini of Italy and, of course, Haitian-Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka.
Their appreciation for Black trailblazers is certainly felt, from larger-than-life tennis greats such as Arthur Ashe, the greatest of all time, Serena Williams, the still-active Venus Williams and Yannick Noah to a list that includes Bryan Shelton, MaliVai Washington, Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Chanda Rubin, James Blake and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
It was fitting that Eubanks registered his biggest win on what would have been the late icon Ashe’s 80th birthday. With the way his game is suited for grass after his previous disdain for it, it would not be far-fetched for him to join Ashe as one of two Black American men to win Wimbledon.
Whether the Cinderella run for Eubanks leads to a title — a unfathomable thought just a few days ago — you can guarantee he won’t question whether he will keep playing anytime soon.