Chris Eubanks continues to win at Wimbledon and plays Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday

Something strange started happening with Chris Eubanks earlier this year.

As he walked the grounds of the Miami Open, people kept stopping him and asking for selfies and autographs. He took time out of a day off to visit a sponsor’s suite and was happy to give some managers and their guests.

It’s not the kind of thing a player in his position — a month away from his 27th birthday, having drawn little attention during his first five seasons in professional tennis — generally experiences. But just days before, a video of Eubanks choking back tears after being told he had finally broken into the top 100 after an early round win had gone viral in the tennis world. Now he was in the Miami quarterfinals and apparently everyone wanted a piece of him.

“We certainly didn’t anticipate this,” he said at the time as he walked through the bowels of Hard Rock Stadium, his eyes glistening from all the attention.

Four months later, Eubanks is getting used to it in a hurry.

A day after beating Cameron Norrie, the top British player, in front of a packed crowd on Court No 1, Eubanks was at it again on Saturday, knocking out Australia’s Chris O’Connell in a return Wimbledon match filled with big serves , short rallies and three tiebreak sets that all went Eubanks’ way.

On Friday, the thrill came from overcoming a Wimbledon semifinalist and Norrie’s hometown crowd. During warm-ups on Saturday, Eubanks looked up into the stands and suddenly realized he was playing on the court where the 11-hour, five-minute match played by John Isner and Nicolas Mahut over three days in 2010 ended 70-68 in the fifth set .

“It was kind of cool,” said Eubanks, who allowed himself a moment to take it all in. Then he turned to hitting serves, playing aggressively and finishing points when the chance presented itself. “I’ve done a pretty good job of focusing on each game individually and not really focusing on the magnitude of what’s going on.”

And 23 aces later, Eubanks had a round-of-16 date set for Monday with Stefanos Tsitsipas, the world’s fifth-ranked player.

“The whole match was on his racket and I couldn’t do anything,” a dazed O’Connell said of Eubanks when it was over. O’Connell had played Eubanks once before, at a tennis minor leagues tournament in South Korea last year. His opponent on Saturday was nothing like the flawed player he faced a year ago.

“He didn’t miss,” O’Connell said. “He’s riding on confidence and he’s playing some incredible tennis.”

It can happen at Grand Slams. A journeyman catches fire and plays himself into the deep end of the tournament, just months after toiling in the minor leagues. Even by those standards, Eubanks’ journey stands out, both in its improbability and, now that it has happened, in the reason it did so.

Go back to his teenage years growing up in Georgia in the early 2010s. His tennis-loving father was a Baptist minister, so his mother had to accompany him to most of his Sunday matches. At the time, Eubanks did not rate highly enough with the United States Tennis Association to merit much in the way of support. That would come after college, when he received a $100,000 scholarship from the USTA to help finance his professional career.

The Covid-19 pandemic arrived just as Eubanks felt he was starting to figure out his game. He had qualified for the Australian Open and picked up some wins on the Challenger Tour in second place to gain some confidence. When the tour resumed after the pandemic, he felt he had to start all over again.

Eubanks and his agent had a heart to heart.

“I said, ‘Listen, if I’m still at 200 next year and injuries haven’t played a role, I can do something else with my time,'” Eubanks recalled after his win over Norrie. “It’s not so glamorous if you’re ranked around 200.”

That’s how Eubanks, who studied business at the Georgia Institute of Technology after starting out as an engineering student, ended up making occasional appearances in the Tennis Channel commentary booth, something he believes has helped him better analyze his own matches while playing them.

Last year, Eubanks, who is 6-foot-7 and whose powerful style is described by opponents as a “big game,” decided to make some changes. After years of cutting corners and trying to build a tennis career on the cheap, he committed to a consistent routine and spent money on a full-time trainer.

Every workout and training session had a plan and mostly followed a schedule. He began to focus on his rest and was more careful about what he ate. Even though his body felt fine after a workout or a match, he let a physical therapist work on him.

“Just making sure I did all the little things,” he said.

The wins, sometimes four or five a week at small tournaments, started coming.

Martin Blackman, general manager of player development at the USTA, said following the routine was at once the easiest and hardest thing for a player to learn. Anyone can focus for a week or a month, but not seeing quick results can make a player question whether diligence makes any difference.

Blackman, who has known Eubanks since he was a teenager, said his upside was clear given his physicality and talent.

“That he’s been able to rise so quickly is a surprise,” Blackman said.

Eubanks had to win two qualifying rounds just to get into the Miami Open in March. Making it to the quarterfinals on the hard courts that American players are raised on is one thing. Reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon, where he has never played in the main draw and where he was so unfamiliar with the grounds that he had to ask where to find the practice courts when he arrived a week ago, is quite another.

After Miami, with a placement that would get him into the majors and provide some financial security, Eubanks returned to the minor leagues to see if he could translate those solid few months into life as a consistent pro. He played a number of hard court events in South Korea where he continued to pick up wins and ranking points. He then went to Europe for a hard week of training and a clay court tuneup for the French Open, where the slow surface did not play to his strengths and he lost in the first round. Then it was off to play on the grass.

He hated it. A month ago, Eubanks told her friend Kim Clijsters, a former world No. 1, that it was a “stupid” playing surface.

She told him that one who can serve as he can should not worry. Bend your knees and focus on the movement. Stop planting your foot to change direction and take a few extra small steps so you don’t slide all over the place. His coach had given him similar advice. Hearing it from Clijsters felt different.

Week by week, Eubanks said, he became more comfortable and confident, especially after winning the ATP Tour title at the grass court tournament in Mallorca, Spain, the week before Wimbledon. The next day he asked for directions to the practice courts at the All England Club.

“I think it’s slowly, slowly growing on me,” Eubanks said with a laugh after his win over O’Connell. “At this point I think borderline, I can say it’s my favorite surface.”

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