Eubanks: despite success, “we’ve got to close out”

Photo by Nate Jeffries

Few college athletes arrive on campus knowing that they will be top performers on their team. They certainly aspire to be there, but rarely do they accomplish that feat in their first year on Tech’s campus. Junior men’s tennis player Chris Eubanks is one of those few elite athletes.

In his first year at Tech he played most of his matches in the one slot, accruing a 7-11 record in matches in a slot usually reserved for seasoned veterans. His sophomore year he only played in the top slot, going 21-2 in his matches there and earning himself a bid in the NCAA singles tournament.

When you meet Chris, his demeanor and actions don’t convey the competitive spirit that lies within. Standing at 6’7”, the lanky junior from Atlanta, Ga. looks like he would be more likely to be found on a basketball court, but a simple conversation with him changes that perspective. He goes from bubbly describing a 6-1, 6-2 rout of Louisville’s Christopher Morin-Kougoucheff the day prior, to walking through what he and the team should work on if they hope to top the ACC and the country.

Per Oracle ITA, Eubanks is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation in singles play. Additionally, Eubanks has seen success against other top players this season with a win over No. 2 Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest. Despite this, Eubanks is sure of what he still needs to improve upon, a crucial trait for any player.

“I think one of the main things I have to improve on and that I’ve done a good job getting better at is building my body,” he said. Eubanks is currently listed as weighing 165 lbs., and one look at his lanky frame confirms that. He continued, “Once you get to a certain level of tennis, all of the guys can hit a forehand or a backhand, it’s just about being able to do that under pressure.” That is both a physical and mental obstacle that must be overcome.

Mentally, Eubanks has had more to deal with beyond just his matches. While tennis is not a traditional team sport with the group competing towards one  goal together, leaders still emerge. Despite that expectation, there has not been much stress placed on Eubanks due to the team being so cohesive.

“We have a really close knit group of guys, and a very, very close team,” he said. “We all chip in at different times and assume leadership roles; we have four guys my year, … we all of kind of know when it’s our time to lead and take on that responsibility.”

As Eubanks continues to grow at Tech, his talent has allowed him experiences nationally and beyond. The thing he values most about these outside experiences is the perspective and motivation it gives him.

“I played in the US Open. I played in the BB&T Atlanta Open the past four years. Each of these things … shows me that I have a lot of work to do to continue to improve if I want to be able to play at those tournaments and at that level more consistently.” This motivation is a hallmark of many great athletes and leads Eubanks to wanting to play against the highest level of competition.

“I think, obviously the best, would be able to play Roger Federer someday,” he said when asked about his aspirations. “But just any of the top guys, to be able to see … how far I am from being one of the best players in the world. Hopefully I would put up a pretty good fight and reassure myself that I’m not that far away.”

That perspective gained from professional tournaments combined with his thirst for victory comes to a head when discussing what the team needs to do to win the tough ACC tournament. The No. 18 Jackets have been dominant in the ACC, their only loss coming (at the time of writing) against No. 1 Wake Forest.

“The biggest thing is we’ve just got to close out,” Eubanks said plainly. “On two courts, we had two guys serving for their matches, if they just serve those matches out we beat Wake Forest 4-1. I think it’s just realizing it’s just realizing and coming to grips with the fact that we are one these very good teams and we have to try and continue to put that together and show the rest of the country … that we belong here.”

Finally, Eubanks looked at his goals for the rest of the season.

“My top goal is to win NCAA’s. I think if I can continue to progress and do the right things that I’ve been doing that’s a definite possibility.” As the end of the season draws near, there are a number of distractions that might push a player one way or another. From finals approaching to the competition intensifying to fatigue building from the accumulation of match play, it is easy to lose sight of the goal. But one thing is clear: Chris Eubanks is peaking at just the right time to make a run.