Eubanks Rolls In Atlanta Opener; Chinese Teen Shang Downs Shelton
There is nothing like returning home after a long trip.
Just ask Christopher Eubanks, who raced through his opening-round match Tuesday at the Atlanta Open. Playing his first match since his dream Wimbledon quarter-final run, Eubanks wasted no time to defeat Andres Martin 6-2, 6-4.
In a match of two Atlanta natives, Eubanks produced firepower and clean hitting from the baseline to dispatch the wild card after one hour, seven minutes. In the opening set, Eubanks did not a drop a point behind his hefty serve (16/16) and as the match wore on, the fifth seed continued to thrill the home crowd by striking one-handed backhand winners with ease.
"I knew it was going to be a fun atmosphere," Eubanks said in his on-court interview. "I knew college night, even the years that I played it and last year Andres had the privilege of playing on college night, Georgia Tech fans really come out and they show a lot of support.
"Andres and I know each other really well. He's the guy I practise with probably the most of anybody in Atlanta when I'm home. We've had some pretty good battles in practice, so I knew going out there that he's going to know my game and I'm going to know his game."
At World No. 32 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Eubanks is in the form of his life. The 27-year-old, who will meet countryman Brandon Nakashima in the second round, enjoyed a quarter-final run at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami and hit a new high this month after triumphing at the Mallorca Championships and reaching the last eight at Wimbledon.
"I left I think probably back in April and I was on the road for 12 straight weeks, played 11 of 12 weeks and had some ups and downs, but the ups kind of came towards the end and things were going really well," Eubanks said. "I'm hoping to continue that trajectory and see where the summer takes me. This entire year really has been a dream come true, so I'm hoping to keep it going."
Martin, 22, recently completed his junior year at Georgia Tech, where Eubanks was a student-athlete from 2014-17. The World No. 723 Martin, who ousted Thanasi Kokkinakis last year as a wild card in Atlanta, was playing just his third tour-level match.
Also in action Tuesday evening, Shang Juncheng downed American Ben Shelton 6-4, 6-4 in a #NextGenATP battle after winning 83 per cent of first-serve points to earn his second tour-level main draw victory. World No. 41 Shelton is the highest-ranked player that the 18-year-old Shang has defeated in his career.
"Ben is an amazing player, he's made so many good matches this year and he's an upcoming star," Shang said. "He's already around 40 in the world, so for me it's really amazing to beat him here. We had a really amazing match, I played really good. I'm happy about the performance and looking forward to the next round against Kei."
A pivotal moment came when the Chinese teen served for the match at 5-4. Shang trailed 15/40, but then won four consecutive points to secure a second-round clash against Japanese star Kei Nishikori, who is 15 years his senior.
Shang is 17th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race. He is aiming to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals for the first time.
Earlier in the day, Dominik Koepfer rallied past six-time Atlanta champion John Isner 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3). Despite not breaking the 6’10” American’s serve, the German Koepfer held his nerve in two tie-breaks to earn his first main draw tour-level win since last year’s ATP 500 event in Washington, D.C. Koepfer will face third seed Daniel Evans in the second round.
Tuesday was the 38-year-old Isner's first opening-round loss at the Atlanta Open in 13 appearances.