Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Eubanks overpowers third seed, ex-Tiburon champ

Christopher Eubanks serves during his 6-3, 6-3 victory
over Peter Polansky, the third seed and 2013 champion,
today in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
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   TIBURON, Calif. -- Add Peter Polansky to the list of accomplished players Christopher Eubanks has frustrated with his power in Northern California Challengers lately.
   Eubanks, a 22-year-old lifelong Atlantan, dispatched Canada's Polansky, the third seed and 2013 champion, 6-3, 6-3 in 57 minutes today to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Eubanks, 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) and only 180 pounds (82 kilograms), pounded nine aces and ripped numerous passing shots and winners with his flat forehand and one-handed backhand.
   After Polansky broke serve for 3-5 in the second set on a rare unforced error by Eubanks, Polansky cracked, "Back on earth, baby!"
   Following their first career meeting, the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Polansky said Eubanks "played very, very aggressively today, especially in the first set. I don't think he missed one return. He was slapping everything, making me play extremely difficult balls. I felt under pressure every single game. I thought eventually he might slow down a little bit or just throw in some mistakes at key moments, but he didn't. I got frustrated with just how well he was playing.
   "In the second set, I felt I had a little chance to come back there at the end. I was still down a break, and I wasn't serving well. Mentally I was not quite there as well, but he played like four levels above what I expected him to play. I don't know if that's his normal game."
   In terms of aggression, at least, it is.
   "That's pretty much how I play," Eubanks allowed. "It's been a staple of my game for a long time."
   Eubanks proudly donned an Atlanta Braves cap before and after the match. The Braves clinched their first National League East crown since 2013 on Saturday.
Peter Polansky said Christopher
Eubanks "played like four levels
above what I expected him to play."
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Americans Michael Mmoh and Ernesto Escobedo can empathize with Polansky, who made news at the recent U.S. Open by becoming the first lucky loser (a player who falls in the last round of qualifying but advances to the main draw because of a withdrawal) at all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year.
   Mmoh, a promising 20-year-old, and Escobedo, who reached a career-high No. 67 last year in July, were almost helpless against Eubanks' booming serve in back-to-back matches in last month's $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, 98 miles (158 kilometers) south of Tiburon. Both Mmoh, seeded second, and Escobedo lost in two close sets, and Eubanks subsequently fell to South African Lloyd Harris, who had won the $75,000 Lexington (Ky.) Challenger the previous week, in the semifinals.
   Mmoh, however, defeated Eubanks 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 three weeks ago in the first round of the $150,000 Chicago Challenger to improve to 4-2 in the head-to-head series. Mmoh is seeded fifth in Tiburon, where he reached the final as a qualifier two years ago.
   Polansky hedged when asked if Eubanks, who's ranked No. 223, has top-20 potential or better.
   "It's tough to say right now," said Polansky, who reached a career-high No. 110 in June and is now No. 120. "He's still pretty far away from that. Does he have top-hundred potential? Yeah. Once he's top hundred, it's, 'OK, push for 90, push for 80.' A lot of players take that route rather than aiming straight for top 20, top 30."
   Eubanks will meet his former Atlantic Coast Conference rival, 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Noah Rubin, in Friday's quarterfinals. The sixth-seeded Rubin, also 22, beat another former ACC star, wild card JC Aragone (Virginia,  2015-17), 7-6 (3), 6-4 after trailing 0-4 in the first set.
   "He's a great ball-striker, especially (in conditions) like this -- the court is fast and the ball is slow," Rubin, a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York and the runner-up in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger in 2016, said regarding his early deficit. "It's good for him just to keep ripping. I came out relatively slow moving-wise and was kind of playing into his game. Then I said, 'Stop (playing like that),' and found my openings in a couple games. I was like, 'Just stick with this set and see what you can do,' and I found my way back."
John-Patrick Smith of Australia reacts
after beating eighth-seeded Bjorn Frat-
angelo of Orlando, Fla., 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Eubanks turned pro last year after his junior season at Georgia Tech, where he was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. Rubin made the leap after reaching the 2015 NCAA final, in which he lost to 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Ryan Shane of Virginia, as a freshman at Wake Forest.
   Rubin was 2-0 against Eubanks in college, but Eubanks won in the first round of the $50,000 Champaign (Ill.) Challenger in 2016 in their only meeting in a pro tournament. All three matches were straight-set wins.
   Also Friday, top-seeded Marcel Granollers, a 32-year-old Spaniard, will play unseeded John-Patrick Smith, a 29-year-old left-hander from Australia.
   Granollers, who attained career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013, defeated qualifier Cem Ilkel of Turkey 6-2, 7-5.
   Smith, the doubles champion in Tiburon two years ago and in San Francisco last year with countryman Matt Reid, beat eighth-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Fratangelo advanced to the Tiburon singles quarterfinals for three consecutive years (2014-16).
   The quarterfinal matchups in the bottom half of the draw will be determined Thursday.
   In the first round of doubles, wild cards and defending champions Andre Goransson and Florian Lakat -- former Cal teammates from Sweden and France, respectively -- topped third-seeded Polansky and Jackson Withrow of College Station, Texas, 4-6, 6-3 [10-4].
   Here are the Tiburon singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Admission is $20 through Thursday (free for club members), $25 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for a Saturday-Sunday pass).

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