After American Christopher Eubanks picked up his thrilling three-set victory over compatriot Maxime Cressy in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday night, he pointed to his left forearm to say he felt pain. ice in the veins.

The former Georgia Tech star saved three match points in the second-set tie-break against Cressy and also saved a match point in the first qualifying round against Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez. It has certainly proven itself under pressure in the California desert.

“It’s a blur at this point,” Eubanks said as he returned to the players’ area and hugged coach Phillip Gresk with a big smile on his face.

The 25-year-old now has six tour-level wins, including two at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the past six months. The place is known as “Tennis Paradise,” and that moniker rings especially true for Eubanks.

“Typically being in the desert the air is a bit lighter and that usually helps the serve. The courts are quite slow. It gives me the opportunity to throw a few balls and find as many forehands as possible. But we’re at Tennis Paradise,” Eubanks said. “A lot of times when you’re feeling good in a tournament, you tend to play well, so I think this place has always been pretty welcoming to me for a long time and for some reason. , I just seem to play some of my best tennis on these courts.

Christopher Eubanks defeats Steve Johnson on Tuesday in Newport” />
Photo Credit: Kate Lucey/International Tennis Hall of Fame
Before the local favorite takes on eighth seed Casper Ruud on Saturday for a third-round berth, it’s important to know how hard Eubanks has worked to get to this point. He competed as a student-athlete at Georgia Tech from 2015-2017, twice winning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. In 2017, at the TRUIST Atlanta Open presented by Fiserv, he beat Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson to reach the quarterfinals, showing his potential.

But the road to the top of the ATP Tour has not been perfect. A three-time ATP Challenger Tour holder, he reached No. 147 in the ATP rankings in 2019, a career high. However, he was unable to go any further. The American is trying to get into the biggest events he can to try and keep building his rankings. This led him to zigzag around the world this year, to Australia, to the United States, then to Doha and back to the United States for Indian Wells.

A big result like what Eubanks has achieved so far in the desert makes this grind even more rewarding.

“Extremely. Extremely. Especially where I’m ranked 150 to 160, there’s a lot of Challengers, qualifying tournaments, and you’re just trying to find your way around, find the tournaments you can go to, find the tournaments that you can play well,” Eubanks said. “So to be able to play well at one of the greatest tournaments in the world, certainly one of the greatest tournaments in the world, is really quite special.”

After defeating Cressy and what Eubanks called “the slowest ace in tennis history”, he’s not ready to slow down. Taking down Ruud, a Top 10 player who reached the semi-finals of last year’s Nitto ATP Finals, won’t be easy. But this will not be his first “big game”.

“I’ve played a lot of big games against really good opponents and I know where my level can be matched any day. I think for me it’s just being able to find consistency there,” Eubanks said. “So it’s not so much about having this gender-revealing experience of ‘Wow, I can play at this level. It’s more about doing it day in and day out. Right now, I think that this is my third game in a row where I’ve played a really, really good ball in. I’m extremely excited about it and hopefully I can just move on.

Eubanks indirectly got a lot of attention on social media last month when WTA superstar Naomi Osaka watched her Dallas Open first round qualifier against JJ Wolf. Osaka was in town for a concert by her boyfriend, Cordae.

“It was the first set, she came and I kind of saw her in the back corner. She stayed there for a few games. I didn’t know if the ushers wouldn’t let her in or if she was just choosing to stay there,” Eubanks recalled. “She ended up going around and sitting with my coach in the middle of the first set and stayed there for the rest of the game. It was pretty cool.

Osaka has inspired countless people around the world. But for Eubanks, she is more than a global superstar.

“To me, that’s kind of weird, just because I consider her my friend. That’s who she is,” Eubanks said. “But she’s a global icon and the reach she has , it’s pretty amazing. It’s quite remarkable. I think the way she handles it is incredibly impressive. I’m just honestly honored to be able to call her a friend.

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Eubanks also has a positive impact on those around him. He’s an easy-going guy who’s always open to conversation, whether it’s about his Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks or anything else. A word used by Eubanks, jovial, is accurate to describe him.

The American hopes to use this to his advantage against Ruud. Regardless of what happens, Eubanks is trying to keep the opportunity in perspective.

“[It is] also realizing that I hope to one day play in much bigger tournaments, or much bigger matches than the first round of a Masters. I hope one day it will be the fourth round, the quarter, the semi-finals and that I will fight my way through the whole draw,” said Eubanks. “Keeping that perspective of saying, ‘I think there are bigger things to come,’ kind of keeps me fueled and motivated to keep working hard and doing what I have to do. .”

The former Georgia Tech star doesn’t have a particular goal in mind moving forward. Instead, he tries to bring out the best in himself every day. It will start with just focusing on the task at hand – trying to earn his first Top 10 win on Saturday.

“I just want to be the best player I can be. I don’t really try to compare myself to anybody. I don’t try to do anything like everyone else,” Eubanks said. be, I just want to be able to play that and I can be more than happy to live with any outcome.