September 26, 2023

Open Court


It’s their time to shine: Gauff and Eubanks hit Arthur Ashe (pics)

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Coco Gauff and Chris Eubanks were pals long before this.

But it’s an interesting dynamic to watch both their stars rise – perhaps in slightly different firmaments – at the same time as their home Grand Slam tournament gets under way.

Gauff, still just 19, finds herself coming into the biggest showcase she will find in the sport on the wings of her first WTA 500 title in D.C., and her first WTA 1000 title in Cincinnati just a week ago.

Maybe her time is now, although any qualifier that sounds like “at last” or “long overdue” is just a consequence of a hype machine that spits out its young at a furious rate.

One thing is for sure; the level of attention and the pressure that comes with that will be something she has not yet really experienced. It could be a lot, maybe even too much – or maybe just the right amount.

There’s no way to know how you’re going to react to a new experience until you go through it.

And yet, does it not seem that Gauff has somehow … taken a leap in maturity this year from a baseline that was already precocious in its level of togetherness?

She was always just a young kid until now; in 2023, she has blossomed into a stunning, poised, confident young woman almost before our eyes without losing any of her youthful enthousiasm. Given some of her struggles at times this year, that’s a victory in itself.

So much extra credit has been given to the arrival of veteran coach Brad Gilbert into her camp as the potential “missing piece”. (isn’t that always the way? Coaches get too much credit. And then, later on when it goes sideways, they get too much blame).

But without discounting what the experienced Gilbert brings to the conversation – and given her status that likely will be strictly evaluated based upon her results here and at future majors, as sad as that is – maybe now is also just … Coco’s time.

Here are Gauff and Eubanks a few days ago, taking the court after Novak Djokovic for a practice session before a big gathering of fans on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Making Hay while the Sun Shines

Gauff’s friend Eubanks, a wise old soul of 27, never had to navigate that precociousness or that hype. For the last five years, out of Georgia Tech, he hadn’t had the results to warrant it. Plus, tennis fans seem to like their hype projects to be a lot younger than that,

But every player has their own unique path. And who wasn’t happy for him when he put together an attention-getting run at – of all places – Wimbledon?

Eubanks is savvy enough to know that the time to make hay is when the sun shines. And it’s finally shining on him.

He’s been everywhere during the leadup to this US Open: the morning shows, hosting a little content from the Hamilton musical. He is only doing himself good by taking advantage of all the offers and exposure that are coming his way, creating some brand recognition that will see him through the tougher moments that inevitably come after the big ones.

Back before they were the big thing, 14-year-old Coco Gauff and 22-year-old Chris Eubanks teamed up for mixed doubles at the US Open in 2018.

As the relatively low No. 28 seed, Eubanks is making his 2023 US Open debut on … Grandstand, in an evening match Monday night against Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon.

That should take place about the time his friend Coco makes her own debut against Laura Siegemund, featured in the opening night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium that will also have all of the official opening ceremony protocols, with music and all the American pageantry emblematic of this most American Grand Slam.

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