Donald Young On The Tennis Education Of 'The Mayor', Christopher Eubanks
Former World No. 38 Donald Young remembers first meeting Christopher Eubanks, who from the age of 12 would compete in matchplay sessions hosted by Young’s father at the South Fulton Tennis Centre in Atlanta. Anybody was allowed to play, and Eubanks’ father would always bring him to participate.
“Then his mom wanted him to get some higher-level playing and coaching and whatnot. So he started coming more often, and then my dad gave him a job at the summer camp to kind of coach the kids and help them out,” Young told ATPTour.com. “After he was finished, me and my best friend would hit with him and we would practise with him. And then as he got to be like 15, 16, I was like, ‘Hey man, you want to maybe take it to the next level?’”
Under the tutelage of his parents, Young had become the No. 1 junior in the world and later a Top 50 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, competing on the biggest stages (he is still active). But the American lefty never had a mentor from a young age who was able to provide him advice as he climbed towards the top of the sport.
Young wanted to be that mentor for someone, and Eubanks proved the perfect fit. He quickly began practising with Eubanks, as did his friends, including former touring pro Andrew Carter and former Illinois State University player Skip Span.
“We have videotape of [Chris] at 13, 14, [us] just giving him the business in games to 11 and 12 and talking smack,” Young said, cracking a laugh. “It was a lot of fun.”
Photo: Donald Young
What made Young especially optimistic was that Eubanks’ father had built “quality technique” in his game. Young believed that consistently hitting with a top-level professional would help Eubanks improve a lot faster so that when he would play other juniors and get to college, opponents’ shots would feel slower.
When Young asked Eubanks if he would join him on Tour, the latter quickly said ‘Sure’, and the rest was history. Eubanks travelled with Young beginning in 2012 and continued accompanying him to tournaments for years, with the last of those events coming in Canada in 2017. As valuable a learning experience as it was for Eubanks, there are plenty of funny memories for them to look back on, too.
“We were in Morocco and he had never really travelled outside of the country like that. And I'm telling him what to and not to eat. And I'm like, ‘Don't eat that, that's not what you eat over here, stick to the chicken, stick to maybe lasagna,’” Young recalled. “He's like, ‘No, no, I want this, I want that.’ [He] ends up sick, throwing up, can barely get on the flight...
“One [time] he overslept and missed practice in Paris and we gave him a hard time for that. And we played this game where if you were the last person to have your credential on once you leave the site, you have to walk all the stairs up to your room and a couple of times he lost that. So it's just little things like that.”
Eubanks has become known as one of the most well-liked players on Tour for his bubbly personality, which has also earned him opportunities to broadcast for Tennis Channel during his time off. That has long been Eubanks' personality, according to Young.
“He's always [been] one of those guys, super helpful. ‘Donald, what do you need, anything? I'll go get it. I'll go get the ball. I'll get the racquet. What do you need? I got it. What do you need?’” Young said. “He's just always been that guy. We call him the mayor, the governor, networking and talking to people and he's way more outgoing than I ever would be. So, to his credit, he does very well with that.”
Young explained that he saw Eubanks’ potential on the court much more than his mentee did.
“He had no belief. He was about to accept a 30 per cent ride to [the University of] Alabama,” Young said. “I was like, ‘Man, you're better than that. I think you could do better.’”
Young told Georgia Tech head coach Kenny Thorne about Eubanks, who had played No. 3 on his high school team.
“It was very beneficial for Chris to have trained with Donald early on. Early on Chris got used to playing against pro pace and against lefties. He actually didn’t play as many junior tournaments as many of the juniors usually do because he trained with Donald,” Thorne said. “My assistant Derek Schwandt and I [were able to] watch him at tournaments. I just remember him hitting huge forehands and missing a lot.
“The good points he won, he would win at a very high level. That was very interesting for me. I don’t think he knew how good he was.”
Eubanks and Young at the 2015 Atlanta Open. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
In 2015, Eubanks earned his first Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings points by reaching the semi-finals of the Atlanta Open alongside Young. He enjoyed a standout career at Georgia Tech, where he twice earned All-American status before turning professional in 2017 after his third year at the school.
But it was not until earlier this year that Eubanks broke into the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. In Miami, the American enjoyed a dream run to the quarter-finals, during which he was supported by celebrities including actor Jamie Foxx and former NFL star Chad Johnson. What was most telling was the emotion he showed when he earned the win that guaranteed him a place in the Top 100.
“I think he appreciates it more because in the back of his mind, I don't think he ever thought it would happen,” Young said. “So it's kind of like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ But he can really appreciate it. It's not like something he expected… Everything means so much more, which is awesome to see, because he's living in real time. He's enjoying the moment."
Eubanks has proven over the past few weeks that he is still on the rise. With his booming serve and forehand, he is becoming one of the most dangerous players on Tour, especially on grass. The 27-year-old won his first tour-level title last week in Mallorca and on Friday, he upset British No. 1 Cameron Norrie to reach the third round on his Wimbledon main draw debut and climb to a career-high No. 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“His level at the moment and his confidence is unbelievable,” Norrie said. “He completely took the racquet out of my hand today. I did what I could, but it wasn't enough.”
Eubanks blew the lefty off the court. Playing aggressively and sticking to his game plan has been a focus of the American’s. Young has spoken to the 6’7” righty about being that aggressive since before he attended Georgia Tech.
“He watched me play a lot. So when he was younger, he was like ‘Oh man, I want to roll the ball like you,’” Young recalled. “I was like, ‘Absolutely not. You should hit the ball as hard as you can all the time and just give the guy no rhythm.’ And that's kind of when he really started taking off.”
Eubanks has made clear his appreciation for everyone who has helped him to this point. When he triumphed in Mallorca, he immediately thanked several people who have helped him along the way, including Young.
“I travelled all over the world with him. And for me, that was huge, because it allowed me to practise with a player who was Top 50 at the time, which not many 15 and 16 year olds could do every single day, and that was something that I was able to do,” Eubanks told ATPTour.com. “I think it also allowed me to see that me playing professional tennis was a real possibility because I felt like as a kid, if you don't know any professional tennis players, you don't have access to any professional tennis players, it's kind of hard to believe that you can be a professional tennis player and he gave me that access.”
That was one of the main benefits Young saw as well. Eubanks spent time around and practised with Young, but also was able to get to know other players including Michael Russell, the current coach of Taylor Fritz, and Nicholas Monroe. Eubanks received the perfect education for what life would be like on the ATP Tour.
A decade later, the 27-year-old is shining on it.
“It was just nice to take someone from 13, 14, not believing they could do it to showing them they can actually play,” Young said. “That was very cool.”