No doubt having seen how the Wimbledon crowds lifted and energised both Liam Broady and Andy Murray on Friday, Cameron Norrie hoped that they would do the same for him when he faced the big American, Christopher Eubanks for a place in the third round.
There are tons of really good professional tennis players who never get the chance to play the No. 1 Brit at Wimbledon, in an atmosphere like this. Christopher Eubanks
“The crowd plays a huge part. They can change the mood of the match and you have to use that to your advantage” Norrie said on the eve of their first ever meeting.
They certainly did their best on No.1 Court but the power of the 6’7” American’s forehand and his serving eventually wore down the indefatigable British No.1, seeded 12 for The Championships, who was dumped out in round two, 6-3 3-6 6-2 7-6(3).
In many ways it was an interesting clash between two players who have honed their tennis at American Universities and, at 27-years-of-age, are contemporaries. They had never faced each other whilst playing on the NCAA circuit though they both played in successful Uni tennis teams. And interestingly, both finished their university education the same year.
Since those days Norrie has made the most progress on the professional tour and was making his sixth appearance at Wimbledon, reaching the semi-final last year and this loss inflicted by a player making his debut at SW19, will be a great disappointment to him.
Eubanks, though, is no slouch on grass having won a warm-up event in Mallorca last week for his first ATP Tour title, as well as a few matches in Halle and Stuttgart, and had arrived at the AELTC well prepared which certainly showed.
The American had never previously progressed past the Qualifying tournament, nor reached the third round of a Grand Slam, so this victory will certainly provide him with a great confidence boost.
He kept Norrie very much on the back foot and used his long reach to great effect, striking the ball with a snap and moving about the court smoothly.
Norrie, after levelling at a set-all, broke Eubanks early but then suffered a meltdown as the man from Atlanta pulled back crucially for 4-4 and, while Norrie managed to force a tie-break, it was Eubank who was able to stamp his authority on it allowing his British opponent just three points before he closed it out with a powerful forehand strike and a gentle volley.
“[It is] by far the biggest win of my career,” Eubanks said in his on-court interview. “It’s not even a question. There are tons of really good professional tennis players who never get the chance to play the No. 1 Brit at Wimbledon, in an atmosphere like this.”
And the partisan crowd provided a great atmosphere as fa as he was concerned, adding: “It didn’t even matter how many people were for me or against me, this is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
Eubanks ended the contest with 21 aces and 63 winners in a remarkable display of power, earning a third-round clash with Australia’s Christopher O’Connell.