How Christopher Eubanks became America's new Wimbledon hero

Part-time commentator Christopher Eubanks is into the last-eight at Wimbledon
Part-time commentator Christopher Eubanks is into the last-eight at Wimbledon

Producers at the Tennis Channel are braced for a call from the USA’s Christopher Eubanks, who has supplied the most memorable fairytale of this year’s Wimbledon.

After his run to the quarter-finals, they suspect that Eubanks will be cancelling his upcoming commentary shifts for the late summer and autumn.

A stalwart of second-tier Futures and Challengers events since he gave up his university education in 2017, Eubanks decided last year that it was time to explore other career options – hence the move into commentary as a sideline.

But after the past few days – which have already seen him oust world No5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and British No1 Cameron Norrie – the microphone might be going back on the shelf for another year or two.

Eubanks was breathless with excitement on Monday, after he had blitzed Tsitsipas out of the tournament. Thirteen aces rained down from his skinny 6ft 7in frame.

Eubanks is a warm and engaging character with pals all around the locker-room. Coco Gauff cheered him on from the player’s box on Monday, while Frances Tiafoe, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens all dissolved into affectionate giggles earlier this year when they were asked to suggest nicknames for their lanky, apparently muscle-free friend.

“Toothpick,” said Tiafoe. “Don’t get me started on that giraffe,” chimed Keys. Stephens then trumped them both with “Daddy long-legs”.

As one of the 10 leading serve-volleyers at this year’s tournament, Eubanks looks like he was built for Wimbledon. And yet, he began this season as a confirmed grass-phobe.

Desperate to master the art of classic “lawn tennis”, he texted Kim Clijsters – the Belgian who won the ladies doubles here in 2003. She told him to stay low and practise his slices – although it’s Eubanks’ 127mph serves and ferocious forehand follow-ups that stick in the mind.

“We have a good connection,” said Clijsters, who met Eubanks while playing a World Team Tennis exhibition event. “We’d talk for hours after matches. As for the grass, I was just telling him that a lot of players struggle when you have to make the quick switch from clay. Sometimes it helps to know that others feel the same.”

From the studio to the last-eight of Wimbledon, Eubanks has created a stir this fortnight
From the studio to the last-eight of Wimbledon, Eubanks has created a stir this fortnight - AFP/Daniel Leal

The first thing that people mention about Eubanks – apart from his curiously stretched-out physique – is his limitless appetite for knowledge. “We’ve had other players pop in when they have been injured,” said the broadcaster and journalist Jon Wertheim, who shared a Tennis Channel studio with Eubanks towards the end of last year. “This was really quite different.

“He was outside the top 100 and approached the job as a future career, not a fun side gig. He prepared and read through the notes and sought advice and ways to improve. Now that we’ve got to Wimbledon, he has found that sweet spot between maturity and self-possession while still being giddy and saucer-eyed about this success.”

The rewards are finally flooding in for Eubanks, who turned 27 in May. His first six years on the tour earned him a moderate sum of £1 million, which doesn’t leave much change after you’ve paid for coaching, travel and accommodation. Now, he stands to take home a minimum of £340,000 – or £600,000 if he can squeeze past the disciplined Daniil Medvedev.

Christopher Eubanks - Christopher Eubanks was preparing to turn his back on tennis – then Wimbledon came along
When will tennis fans get to see Eubanks back in the studio?

And then there are the 360 rankings points, which will almost certainly carry Eubanks to No 31 in the world when the next chart is published on Monday – high enough to be seeded at next month’s US Open.

“The great thing about Chris is that he’s always grateful,” said James Blake, the former world No 4 who has known and admired Eubanks since he was a student. “I’ve talked to him so many times about tennis, and that’s easy, because he knows so much about it. But then he knows a lot as well about plenty other things. He went to college, he’s got a very well-rounded background, and he’s a really easy guy to like.

“I’ve been joking with him for a long time about how he is just Coco Gauff’s friend – the guy in the box cheering for her. He takes it, and he’ll give me a little bit back. But I’m so happy to see him doing well – and Coco there supporting him now.

“I’ve always thought that being yourself on the court really endears you to fans,” added Blake. “Whether that’s Pete Sampras, who was very inward and focused, or Marat Safin, who’s breaking rackets and being a little crazy. With Chris, his personality shines through to the fans. They’re there to be entertained, and he’s just having a great time.”