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    Eubanks stuns Tsitsipas to join Djokovic in Wimbledon quarterfinals
    • July 10, 2023

    By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer

    WIMBLEDON, England — Until about a week ago, even Chris Eubanks did not really believe he was capable of this sort of thing – of beating the world’s best tennis players at Wimbledon, of reaching the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam tournament, of winning match after match after match on grass courts.

    “I would show up to tour events saying, ‘Oh, can I get through a couple rounds of here?’” he said during an interview the day before play began at the All England Club. “Now I genuinely can say, probably for the first time, I’m showing up to tournaments with higher expectations and really wanting to do well and put my best foot forward. I’m no longer feeling OK just being there. I know that I belong.”

    Does he ever.

    Eubanks, a 6-foot-7, big-serving American making his Wimbledon debut at age 27 right after claiming the first ATP title of his career, reached the quarterfinals at a major for the first time by stunning two-time Slam runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a little over three hours on Monday.

    “It’s surreal. I can’t really describe it,” said Eubanks, who is from Atlanta and played college tennis at Georgia Tech.

    “I just think the entire experience, all together, has just been a whirlwind. It’s been something that you dream about,” Eubanks said. “I didn’t really know if that dream would actually come true. I’m sitting here in it now, so it’s pretty cool.”

    Defending champion Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, was temporarily knocked off course by big-serving Hubert Hurkacz but quickly got back in the groove on Monday to reach the quarterfinals.

    Having edged two tiebreaks late on Sunday before being beaten by the tournament’s strict 11 p.m. curfew, Djokovic returned to lose his first set of the tournament before sealing a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 5-7, 6-4 victory.

    Eubanks is ranked a career-best 43rd right now and had a win-loss record of merely 6-10 before going on the run to the trophy at Mallorca, Spain, on July 1. That came on grass, which he decided he hated a month ago – calling it “the stupidest surface” in a text he sent to International Tennis Hall of Fame member Kim Clijsters – after exiting in the second round at a low-level ATP Challenger Tour event.

    “Those words will never come out of my mouth for the rest of my career. The grass and I, we’ve had a very strenuous, I would say, relationship over the years,” Eubanks said after accumulating 53 winners, 16 more than Tsitsipas. “But right now, I think it’s my best friend.”

    He is now on a nine-match winning streak after adding the upset of the fifth-seeded Tsitsipas to an earlier victory over No. 12 Cam Norrie at the All England Club. Next comes another challenge, meeting No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, for a berth in the semifinals.

    “I know I need to be at my 100% and absolute best physically, tennis-wise, and mentally to try to beat him,” said Medvedev, who won his only previous meeting against Eubanks, at the Miami Masters in March. “He is not scared to make a bad shot and still to go to the net and try to finish the point there. Definitely a little bit different from other players.”

    This is just the ninth Grand Slam tournament for Eubanks, who previously never had been past the second round at one of the sport’s most prestigious events. After questioning his ability to contend for titles, Eubanks thought about pursuing television commentary instead, and he’s worked on-air for Tennis Channel.

    But he sure is having a terrific time with a racket in his hand these days.

    And between matches, too.

    “I checked my phone. It’s a bit nuts right now. It’s crazy to see my social media feed that I’m just used to kind of going to (and now) seeing it’s a lot of me. I’m like, ‘What is this? This is weird,’” Eubanks said. “But I think I’ve been able to find a way to compartmentalize everything, realize this is a pretty big moment, but also saying, ‘This is a tennis match that I need to play in a couple days.’”

    During the latter stages against Tsitsipas, Eubanks waved his arms to the crowd to urge it to get louder. After smacking a one-handed down-the-line backhand winner that finished with the flourish of a flowing follow-through, giving him a break for a 4-3 edge in the fifth set, Eubanks held his right index finger to his ear, seeking more noise.

    When he showed a bit of nerves while serving for the victory, missing a backhand, then a volley, he managed to settle down.

    “Although it got a little bit dicey at the end,” Eubanks said, “I still could have the confidence to say: ‘I’m a server. I hit serving targets for these moments right here, and let’s just try to do what I know how to do.’”

    He closed it out with a 127 mph ace followed by a forehand winner and, after shaking hands with Tsitsipas, stood at the center of the court with his thumbs up, his arms spread wide and a smile to match.

    Eubanks soaked up all of the cheers – his supporters included Coco Gauff, the American who reached the fourth round in her Wimbledon debut at age 15 in 2019 and was the runner-up at 18 at the French Open last year – and then curled his fingers to turn his hands into the shape of a heart.


    Djokovic is a bit tired of not getting on Centre Court until nearly 9 p.m. The waiting. The uncertainty. The rushing to try to finish matches by the 11 p.m. local curfew – or the annoyance at having to stop midway through a contest and wait until the following day to resume.

    He offered a solution Monday afternoon after defeating Hurkacz for his 32nd consecutive victory in the grass-court tournament in their suspended match that carried over into Monday: Start play in the All England Club’s main stadium earlier than 1:30 p.m. Maybe at noon, say.

    “It would make a difference,” said Djokovic, who is now into the quarterfinals and three wins away from what would be a fifth championship in a row at Wimbledon, an eighth overall at the place and a 24th career Grand Slam title.

    “There are different ways that I’m sure they will address this issue,” said Djokovic, whose shoes are stamped with the number “23,” a reference to his current major trophy count, “and try to avoid having these kind of problems in the future.”

    Yeah, Novak, good luck with that.

    The head of the club made clear there is not much of a chance of such a switch.

    “Matches are happening at a time when they’re accessible to people. We’re seeing (TV) viewing figures that are beyond our expectations and beyond previous years,” club chief executive Sally Bolton said, “so I think they probably speak for themselves.”

    Play begins on the smaller courts at 11 a.m. and at Court No. 1 at 1 p.m., with Centre Court the last to get play underway. Because the tournament site is right in a residential area, local rules prevent matches from continuing past 11 p.m.; often, if a set ends around 10:30 p.m., the encounter will be suspended until the next day so as not to risk going past the cutoff time.

    That happened in Andy Murray’s loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round, which got stretched into a second day after being the last on the schedule at Centre Court.

    Djokovic’s third-round match, which also was last at that arena, appeared to be headed that way, too, but he managed to finish beating Stan Wawrinka at 10:46 p.m. Djokovic-Hurkacz, again last for the day at Centre Court, began with the retractable roof shut; they stopped at 10:35 p.m. When action picked up again a little more than 16 hours later, the cover was gone and the wind was whipping.

    Djokovic said he warmed up at about 1 p.m. for both of those nighttime affairs and then was left with a key decision.

    “Should you go back to the accommodation? The house nearby? Or should you stay (at the club)? Yesterday, I decided to stay,” said Djokovic, who will face No. 7 Andrey Rublev on Tuesday for a berth in the semifinals. “I stayed, basically, for seven hours, waiting for my match to start.”

    Once it did, Djokovic was not quite at his very best against the 17th-seeded Hurkacz, who is best known for being the player to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2021 in what wound up being the last match of the 20-time major champion’s career. Hurkacz held three set points when he led the opening tiebreaker 6-3, but he showed some shakiness and couldn’t hold on. Then he led 5-4 in the second tiebreaker – two points from taking it – and again allowed Djokovic to come through before the interruption Sunday night.

    After Hurkacz made things interesting by grabbing a set Monday, Djokovic reasserted himself, as he so often does.

    “Playing Novak,” Hurkacz said, “is just an incredible challenge to compete against.”

    In addition to Eubanks vs. Medvedev, the other men’s match Wednesday will be top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 6 Holger Rune. Alcaraz got past 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, and Rune also came back from a set down to beat No. 21 Grigor Dimitrov, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-3.


    Mirra Andreeva’s fairy-tale Wimbledon debut came to an end after the 16-year-old from Russia was beaten, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, by American Madison Keys, who battled back from a set and a break down to win the fourth-round tie.

    World No. 102 Andreeva, who was looking to become the youngest player to reach the last eight of the grass-court Grand Slam since Anna Kournikova in 1997, fought valiantly against Keys but was ultimately overwhelmed by the more experienced player.

    “Coming out here, you know that she’s a really great player. But you don’t want to be the player that loses to her for her to get to her first quarter,” Keys said on court afterward. “I’ve fallen short a few times and it’s great to be back in the quarterfinals here at Wimbledon.”

    Keys, 28, began the match in her typically aggressive fashion, firing off powerful returns and groundstrokes to break serve and go 2-0 ahead.

    However, Andreeva broke back immediately courtesy of a lucky net cord before showing great variation to upset Keys’ rhythm, making her opponent uncomfortable with slices and drop shots as she broke twice more in quick succession to take the opener.

    Keys continue to commit a stream of unforced errors as Andreeva raced to a 3-0 lead in the second, but the 25-seed upped her game, putting the match back on serve with a delicate left-handed winner and forcing a tiebreak, which she won.

    The breaker seemed to take the wind out of Andreeva’s sails. Keys stormed into an early 2-0 lead in the third set after Andreeva double faulted in her opening service game, before finishing off her opponent in a shade over two hours.

    Keys will next play Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated No. 21 Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-4, 6-0. The second-seeded Sabalenka won the Australian Open this year and has a 16-1 record in major tournaments in 2023.

    Also Monday, defending champion Elena Rybakina was given an easy ride into the quarters after 13th-seeded Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia retired midway through the first set with a back injury.

    “Now I’m feeling much better and more confident coming and playing on Centre Court,” Rybakina said. “It is different from the first round. I think it was just overall the atmosphere and the nerves to play the first match to get used to the grass, just to play some matches here. I think now mentally I’m much better. Physically also good now.”

    Rybakina had just broken for a 3-1 lead in the first set when Haddad Maia winced in pain and clutched her back after netting a backhand.

    Haddad Maia called on the physio and kept wincing as her back was being manipulated courtside. After leaving court to receive further treatment she returned in an attempt to resume the match following a 10-minute interval.

    However, the way she stiffly bent down to pick up her racket from her chair to resume the contest signaled that the match might soon be over.

    She tearfully went through the motions for one more game, clutching her back after every point before shaking her head to confirm that she could no longer continue.

    Sixth-seeded Ons Jabeur set up a quarterfinal repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final against Rybakina after crushing out-of-sorts two-time champion Petra Kvitova, 6-0, 6-3, on Centre Court.

    It’s just the quarterfinals this time around, but the Tunisian player has to go through the defending champion to have a chance of winning her first Grand Slam tournament.

    “I’m probably going for my revenge,” Jabeur said on court. “It was a difficult final last year. It’s going to bring a lot of memories.”

    “The first one or two weeks (after), I thought about it a lot. It was very painful. The good thing about it is I know I gave it everything. I’m someone that believes that it wasn’t meant to be, so I cannot force it more than it should be. I’m glad that I have this belief. I believe in destiny. It wasn’t supposed to be that year. Maybe greater things are coming after that final.”

    Jabeur has been a Grand Slam runner-up twice – both times last year. After losing to Rybakina in three sets at Wimbledon, she lost to Iga Swiatek in straight sets at the U.S. Open – falling just short of becoming the first African or Arab woman to win a major tennis tournament in the sport’s professional era.

    Two things jump out to Jabeur when she thinks about the Wimbledon loss to Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan but was born in Russia.

    “The fact that I was really exhausted like emotionally,” she began. “I wanted to keep pushing, but I felt little bit empty. Second thing, maybe what my coach kept telling me, to stick more to the plan, to do certain things, even though I was thinking something else in that match.”

    The 28-year-old Jabeur hopes to “play more freely, just think about each point and not the results.”

    Mission accomplished on Monday, when Jabeur felt free enough on Centre Court to execute a David Beckham-style – Jabeur is a fan of the England great – half-volley kick on a bouncing ball while up a set and 3-1.

    The ninth-seeded Kvitova, who eliminated Jabeur in the first round at Wimbledon in 2019, dug herself a hole from the start, committing a double fault and three unforced errors to hand Jabeur a service break in the first game.

    On Tuesday, top-ranked Iga Swiatek plays Elina Svitolina on Centre Court for a spot in the semifinals, and fourth-seeded Jessica Pegula faces Marketa Vondrousova in the day’s other women’s quarterfinal.


    Wimbledon is staying out of the politics of handshakes.

    Elina Svitolina of Ukraine had urged tennis authorities to publicize that Ukrainians won’t be shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian players after matches – so that fans don’t boo because they think some players are being snubbed.

    “We’ve no intention of doing that,” Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton said Monday.

    Fans on Court No. 1 booed Belarusian player Victoria Azarenka after she didn’t go to the net to shake hands with Svitolina after the Ukrainian player’s victory on Sunday.

    Azarenka knew that Svitolina doesn’t shake hands with Russians and Belarusians – in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and instead waved to her. She later said she was trying to be “respectful towards her decision.”

    Second-seeded Sabalenka of Belarus echoed Svitolina’s call for an announcement “so players will not leave court with so much hate. … It would be good for the crowd to actually know what’s going on. There is a reason behind no handshake.”

    Bolton, however, said there won’t be any instruction to Wimbledon umpires to make announcements about handshakes.

    “Historically, in tennis, the decision on how a player reacts at the end of a match is entirely a personal decision for them and I think we don’t really want to start mandating what happens,” Bolton said. “We have an incredibly knowledgeable audience at Wimbledon and I think, in the most part, they would understand what was going on. I wouldn’t want to speculate on what everybody in the crowd was thinking last night.”

    At the French Open, it was the other way around for Ukrainian players. Marta Kostyuk was booed when she didn’t shake hands with Sabalenka. Svitolina said she was also booed in Paris.

    Medvedev, a Russian, said Azarenka being booed was a “big misunderstanding.” In a big crowd, he said, there’s bound to be people who don’t know the details.

    “It’s a pity for sure for her that she got booed, and probably for no reason,” the third-seeded Medvedev said. “But I think the people didn’t know the story behind it, and that’s why it happened.”

    AP sports writer Ken Maguire contributed to this story.

    ​ Orange County Register