Eubanks Wins As Late Replacement For Tiafoe

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

In the wake of the news Saturday morning that Frances Tiafoe tested positive for COVID-19 and had withdrawn from the DraftKings All-American Team Cup, the weekend exhibition tournament near Atlanta, Georgia, carried on – through summer heat and in spite of a lengthy rain delay during the afternoon session.

No. 238 Christopher Eubanks, an Atlanta native, replaced Tiafoe on Team Stars and faced No. 55 Tennys Sandgren of Team Stripes in the first match Saturday afternoon at the Lifetime Peachtree Corners event site. In taking precautions against the spread of the contagious coronavirus, event coordinators capped attendance at 450 – about 30 percent of capacity – and fans were socially distanced in this first U.S. tennis event that has allow spectators on site since the coronavirus outbreak in early March.

While it seemed the event managers did a good job of maintaining a safe and healthy environment for the fans at Peachtree Corners – despite masks being optional instead of mandatory – it remains unclear how well the players are conducting themselves off the court. At least one prominent tennis journalist suggests players may have been playing while symptomatic.

One particular – and noticeable – difference from Friday was the players emerged from the locker room wearing masks as they walked onto the court.

Soon, the 24-year-old Georgia Tech product Eubanks beat Sandgren, 6-3, 7-6 (5), winning on his second match-point opportunity.  He looked comfortable as a replacement for Tiafoe. After all, playing on his favorite surface – a hard court – and in his hometown seemed to work in his advantage. Eubanks’s victory tied the team score at 3-all. However, it would be short lived as Team Stripes would capture the remaining six points (2 points per victory) at stake on Saturday.

“When I got the call saying I would be able to replace Frances, I was pretty excited. Not too many nerves, I’ve been through this a few times, playing in front of a hometown crowd,” said Eubanks, wearing a mask, during a post-match interview with Tennis Channel, just hours after learning he would replace the withdrawn Tiafoe.

“I regrouped when I needed to and finished pretty well.”

Then, two minutes and two points into the second match between No. 45 Sam Querrey and No. 57 Tommy Paul, it began to rain and forced both players off the court for a 50-minute delay. When play resumed, Querrey went to work and won the opening set 6-3, aided by service breaks in the fifth and ninth games. Then, he gained two match points, ahead 6-5 on Paul’s serve in the second set. However, Paul saved both and went on to hold his own serve that forced a tie-break, which he won 7-4. Next, in the match tie-break at 5-all, Querrey strung together two straight points to lead 7-5. Finally, on his fourth match-point opportunity, he put away the victory, winning 6-3, 6-7 (4), 10-7 in one hour and 44 minutes, when Paul netted a weak forehand return.

Opelka out with knee injury

Saturday evening’s main event in the DraftKings All-American Team Cup, between 21st-ranked John Isner and No. 39 Reilly Opelka, never materialized. Opelka was scratched about an hour before the start of the night session due to a knee injury. He was replaced by No. 286 Kevin King, who like Eubanks is from Atlanta and played collegiately at Georgia Tech. Isner easily won 6-1, 6-3.

Then, No. 63 Steve Johnson upset No. 24 Taylor Fritz, 2-6, 7-5, 10-8, by saving two match points in the second set after being down 4-5 (15-40). The victory gave Team Stripes a 9-3 lead in the team score heading into Sunday’s final day of competition.

Tsitsipas qualifies for UTS semifinals

On Saturday, Stefanos Tsitsipas erased a two-quarter deficit and beat Matteo Berrettini in sudden death to become the first player to qualify for the Ultimate Tennis Showdown semifinals at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Nice, France. Tsitsipas won 11-13, 13-14, 14-13, 13-10, 2-0. David Goffin and Richard Gasquet also posted key wins.

Dominic Thiem to skip Washington in favor of New York

World No. 3 Dominic Thiem confirmed via an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF that he will skip playing in this year’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C., when the ATP Tour resumes in mid August and head straight for New York City. Thiem plans to play in the Masters 1000 Western & Southern Open, which this year only will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., followed by the US Open at the same site.

Thirtieth anniversary of Martina’s ninth Wimbledon title

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Martina Navratilova’s ninth and final Wimbledon singles title in 1990. She stands above Roger Federer’s eight, the seven won by both Serena Williams and Pete Sampras and five by Björn Borg.

What better time than now to enjoy and appreciate Navratilova’s remarkable achievement. Wimbledon’s official YouTube page has posted an eight-minute documentary, A League of Her Own, that highlights Navratilova’s Wimbledon greatness. It is narrated by long-time rival and lifelong friend Chris Evert.

Wawrinka in touch with his creative side

In you’ve kept in touch with Stan Wawrinka throughout the tennis lockdown, you’ll notice the Swiss No. 2 has a creative side that he enjoys sharing on his Instagram platform. Recently, the 35-year-old Wawrinka fulfilled a lifelong dream by teaming up with his good friend, French comedian Kev Adam, who is also a screenwriter and producer.

“This year I launched a new challenge, that of producing a film,” wrote Wawrinka. “So much kindness from the whole team, allowed me to live an incredible day.”

Behind The Racquet – Olga Danilovic

Olga Danilovic of Serbia comes from a sports family – her father played professionally in the NBA and her mother was a sportscaster. After dabbling in ballet and ice skating, the Belgrade native settled on tennis, a sport in which she’s had a love-hate relationship with.

“I had a lot of tough moments but I can’t imagine myself not being on the court practicing and playing matches,” the 170th-ranked Danilovic wrote this week in a first-person essay for Noah Rubin’s Instagram series, Behind The Racquet.

“People often ask about my transition from juniors to the professional circuit,” Danilovic wrote. “Honestly, I never understood what they wanted me to say because when I started playing in the professional circuit, I won two $15,000 events and played in the final of a $25,000 event. I won my first WTA title in Moscow in 2018. I had a quick rise to the top but then life hit me. It was not going to be that easy, not everything would be rainbows and flowers. There had to be some rain. No rain, no flowers.”

Read Danilovic’s entire essay at Behind The Racquet.

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What they’re saying

• Mahesh Bhupathi, on learning of fellow player Frances Tiafoe testing positive for the coronavirus Friday at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup: When both common sense and logic go out the window, someone with some influence and authority needs to step up and say what’s going on just needs to stop. Sure everyone wants a pay day but this is poor leadership all round. ‘Safety first’ RIGHT!!!”

• Alex de Minaur, on his legacy as a young Australian tennis player, as told to the ATP Tour website: “I would love to be known as that guy who is funny, nice and really chilled out off the court. “But as soon as I step out on court to be that guy who will never give up, will fight until the end and if you really want to beat him, you’re going to have to put me down.”

What they’re podcasting

In the latest Tennis With An Accent podcast, Hall of Fame tennis writer and historian Steve Flink reflects on the 1982 Wimbledon final between Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe – a retro Wimbledon for the ages.

What they’re sharing on social media

UNIQLO Ambassadors / A thank you from Roger Federer