Eubanks remembers Young days as his march in Miami continues

Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

MIAMI: American Christopher Eubanks continued his stunning run at the Miami Open on Tuesday, beating France´s Adrian Mannarino to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.

A late bloomer, the Atlanta-born 26-year-old has received plenty of congratulations during his breakthrough week in Miami, where he came through the qualifiers, with actor Jamie Foxx among those taking to social media to offer his support.

"Blood, sweat and tears and true hard work has paid off for my good friend." Foxx wrote after Eubanks defeated Gregoire Barrere in the third round, a result that secured his rise into the top 100.

But while Eubanks was enjoying the long-awaited attention, with television interviews and text messages from figures across the sport, he made a point of highlighting the man who convinced him that he could make a career of tennis and offered him a rare opportunity.

Donald Young, who reached the fourth round of the US Open in 2011 and 2015 and still plays on the second-tier Challenger Tour, was more than a mentor to Eubanks. He took him around the world to give him a unique tennis education.

"Donald was like a big brother. From the time I was 15, I got to train with him and travel. He actually took me to travel the world with him on the tour," said Eubanks. A twist of fate saw the Young family take over a tennis center just down the road from Eubanks´ family home in Georgia just as the 15-year-old was developing a real taste for the game.

"I can remember like it was yesterday. On the way to school, we´re driving and my Dad goes, you´re going to start going over to the Young´s after school," he said. Eubanks helped out with teaching tennis to other schoolkids and then got some one-on-one time with the tour professional.

"Donald would come out around maybe like six and we would train for an hour and a half and that would be about it. "But then when I started to get better, he said, ´You know what, do you want to come and travel with me?´"

Eubanks had to ask his school for time off, but with that granted, he packed his bags and headed off with Young to tournaments across the globe. In return for being Young´s practice partner, he was able to see tournaments such as Wimbledon and the French Open from the inside.

"I actually turned 16 in Madrid. All that time I wasn´t playing junior tennis. I was just travelling and training with him and getting to see professional tennis up close. "I think for me, that just allowed me to really believe that this is possible. I can play professional tennis because if you don´t see it, it´s such an abstract thought unless you can see the level," he said.

As well as learning how Young approached tournaments and matches, Eubanks was also able to build relationships across the sport. "I got to be in the locker room with the guys. So when I finally came on tour, I knew a lot of the guys already, simply from being able to travel with Don," he said.

The following year, Eubanks switched his focus to youth tennis, successfully getting a college scholarship. He played three seasons at Georgia Tech before opting out of his senior year of eligibility to turn professional.

His progress since turning pro in 2017 hasn´t been rapid, but in Miami he has shown that he has the skill-set and attitude to make an impact against top-tier players. He beat world number 20 Borna Coric of Croatia for the biggest win in his career so far to move to the third round and then defeated Barrere in straight sets.

Eubanks was in tears after that win, as the significance of his ranking breakthrough sank in, but he took his latest triumph in his stride. "It just feels more like, I am here, I trust it, I´m playing well, let´s just see how long we can keep this thing going," he said.

And amid all the praise that was being heaped upon him, he took time to call Young. "I made sure to tell him that there is no way in the world I would be here without him and his family. No way in the world," Eubanks said.