Good friends, Atlanta residents Young and Eubanks advance to second round

Atlanta is two for two with its hometown hopefuls after one round of the BB&T Atlanta Open.

Donald Young expectedly made his way into the last 16 on Tuesday afternoon, and he was joined there by a far more unusual suspect in Christopher Eubanks. After Young took care of compatriot Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-2, Eubanks upset fellow wild card Taylor Fritz 7-6(5), 6-4.

Young had previously been a disaster at a tournament that is played just a few blocks away from a residence, but he began to show signs of handling the extra pressure when he reached the quarterfinals last summer. With that performance still fresh in his rearview mirror and having played the best tennis of his career in 2017, it was no surprise that Young picked up another victory in Atlanta against a struggling Smyczek. The 51st-ranked American, who has won 19 ATP-level matches this year, held all 10 of his service games and saved three of four break points to advance in one hour and nine minutes.

Eubanks is Georgia Tech’s No. 1 player, with marginal experience at the Challenger level and almost none on the main tour. The world No. 461 lost a close first-rounder to Reilly Opelka last summer and got over the hump for his first ATP-level victory this time around. Eubanks fought off the only break point he faced midway through the second set and triumphed in one hour and 21 minutes.

“Being able to play in the tournament in my hometown is already difficult to put into words, but to be able to come out and win in front of the crowd it’s beyond comprehension,” Eubanks said.

This is his fifth appearance at the ATP tour stop in Atlanta and third in the main draw after he successfully qualified last summer before falling to Opelka 7-6(9), 7-6(5). In another big-hitting affair with Fritz, Eubanks came out on top this time thanks in part to firing 11 aces, winning 79 percent of his first-serve points, and winning 70 percent of points even on his second serve.

“I like to impose my will no matter who I’m playing so that was the game plan going in–to play my game style and hopefully make the other guy react,” the 21-year-old explained. “I think I did a really good job of that…. I think I need to a better job returning (in the next match).”

For the first time in his career, there will be a “next match” in the main draw of an ATP event. And Eubanks’ next one will come against another young American in Jared Donaldson. The 20-year-old is playing the best tennis of his career and is up to No. 59 in the world following a third-round performance at Wimbledon.

But Eubanks won’t be shying away.

“You always say that you expect to win no matter who you step on the court against, but I kind of take a different approach,” he noted. “I try to expect to play as well as I can play and be able to live with that result, so if I play well and it still goes the other way I have nothing to hang my head about it,” he said. “It also shows me what I need to improve if I play well and I don’t win.”

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