THE FLATS -- If you happen to be bumping around the Georgia Tech campus this week perhaps to help a student move out, you might see Christopher Eubanks practicing at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex and he’ll probably be smiling. He’s moving, too.
With a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4) win last Sunday over Australian’s John-Patrick Smith in the final of the Torneo Challenger Leon in Mexico for his first professional tournament title, he climbed 62 spots in the world rankings to 184.
Eubanks is moving up.
And just as most Tech students are probably not in the mood to talk about school after grinding through finals, he’s more likely to banter about his beloved hometown Atlanta Braves than his sport.
After pocketing some winnings to move his year’s total to an already impressive number, he’s not thinking about tennis for a few days. No surprise there. He’s gassed.
Eubanks just traveled and played for four-straight weeks in Houston, Texas, Guadalajara, Mexico, Leon, Mexico and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The Braves moved into first place Wednesday night, and Eubanks might catch a game or two at SunTrust Park before hitting the road again and traveling to Paris to try to qualify for the French Open. Life is good.
“I’ve been trying to keep up as much as I can,” he said of the Braves. “I’m going to relax and recuperate . . . Most of my time when I’m not playing is spent at Georgia Tech.”
The two-time All-American looks to be repeating the pattern he laid down at Georgia Tech. After posting a 25-21 record as a freshman for the Jackets, he put up marks of 34-6 and 31-6 the next two seasons to twice earn ACC Player of the Year honors.
Eubanks is 2-6 in his career in ATP main draw events, with the first seven matches coming when he was gifted wild card entries into tournament or made it through qualifying -- and then could not take any prize money won. He has been a regular for a couple years at the BB&T Open, the ATP top in Atlanta.
He’s played one main draw event this year, falling in March in the first round of the Miami Open, where he drew a wildcard entry. For that, for falling in his very first match, he earned more than $15,000.
That explains why he’s playing so much on the ATP Challenger Tour, in what equates to Major League Baseball’s AAA minor leagues. He’s won nine of his past 11 matches.
Just as the Braves’ Ronald Acuna built status in the minor leagues, Eubanks has been earning points and status on the Challenger Tour. The more points he has, the higher his ranking goes, and the easier it is for him to get into ATP main draws or qualifiers.
After falling in a qualifying match in the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in early April in Houston -- an ATP main draw event -- he earned $1,270 even without making it to the tournament.
A week later, he won four matches in the Jalisco Open -- a Challenger event in Guadalajara -- and fell in the final. For that, he earned $4,240.
From Guadalajara, Eubanks went to Leon, where he won five matches. Before meeting Smith in the finals, the 6-foot-7, 180-pound former Jacket could’ve sought a scouting report from former Tech star Kevin King, who beat Smith 6-4, 7-6 (6) a couple months ago to qualify for a spot in the Australian Open.
Or, he could focus on himself.
“I kind of really don’t get too much additional info [on opponents],” he said.
Eubanks tends to adjust on the fly on the court.
He’s doing the same thing off of it.
Three of his former Tech teammates -- Michael Kay, Elijah Melendez and Daniel Yun -- will graduate this weekend. He’s missed the team dynamic, especially as the Jackets struggled this season without him.
He still has plenty of Tech connections, and head coach Kenny Thorne is still listed as his head coach on the ATP website. He’ll always be his mentor.
“I’ve still been de-compressing with Kenny, almost after every match,” he said. “He does things the right way. There’s certain times I think of [leaving school early], but I also look at some of the opportunities I’ve been awarded since I left school . . . I got to see a couple matches, and follow live stream scores.”
Eubanks is out of school, but he’s still learning.
Two days after winning the Leon title (5,955 feet above sea level), he was the No. 4 seed in the Puerto Vallarta X Challenger event (elevation 23 feet above sea level), yet lost his first-round match to a qualifier. His decompression from Leon was not sufficient.
His record this season on the Challenger Tour is 11-4. He also won an ITF Futures title last fall.
“It’s all a learning curve because this is the first time I’ve had to deal with it,” he said. “It’s very different going from altitude to sea level. I’ll learn from it. I think there were a lot of factors, not just playing as sea level.”