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Top American collegiate players earning valuable Davis Cup experience

Chris Eubanks Davis Cup
July 13, 2016 05:27 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

While Team USA is on the court this week preparing for a Davis Cup quarterfinal against Croatia, four of the top American collegiate players in the nation are working alongside the pros – hoping to one day become the next great U.S. champions.

The USTA is hosting a training camp for members of the collegiate national team to assist and support the Davis Cup squad during the tie, giving the athletes a chance to learn from and practice with some of the best players and coaches in the country.

The four players selected to attend the camp are Thai Kwiatkowski, Chris Eubanks (pictured above), Tom Fawcett and Henrik Weirsholm. In addition to training, they helped with the family fun fair at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center and, later in the week, they will be doing additional community service activities such as visiting Portland Tennis & Education, the neighboring NJTL chapter.

“It’s just a great opportunity to see tennis at the highest level and see things and pick things up themselves,” said Stephen Amritraj, a USTA national player development coach. “This gets them working together and preparing for the meat of the summer, and it has gone fantastic so far.

“Tennis can help serve the community and they all understand that and they were happy to take court. These players are very well-rounded, coming from some of the best universities in the country. We talk about perspective and the fact that while tennis might seem like the most important thing in their lives, it’s important to have a good balance.

Kwiatkowski and Weirsholm were part of the No. 1-ranked University of Virginia team that went 30-4 this past year and won its second consecutive NCAA Division I men’s tennis championship. Kwiatkowski, who is entering his senior year, way an integral part of that team; he spent much of the year as the top-ranked collegiate player in the nation and also reached the semifinals of Futures events in Charlottsville, Rochester and Pittsburgh.

“It’s pretty amazing to get to come out to Portland,” he said. “To be able to watch the top Americans in a pretty important tie is going to be awesome, and we’re super excited to get to support them. We have four really good guys here so it’s enjoyable to work hard with them.”

But while Kwiatkowski is visiting the Pacific Northwest for the first time, teammate Weirsholm couldn’t feel more at home. The sophomore grew up in Kirkland, Wash., 200 miles north of Portland, and has many memories hitting on the courts at Tualatin Hills.

“This is my backyard. I can tell you just about every court I’ve had a war on out here,” Weirsholm said. “I have played a million matches on these courts, so I love being back here.

“I’ve already had an opportunity to watch the pros playing and it has been really eye-opening to see what they do and how they approach every day. This is what we’re aspiring to be. Being around these guys is pretty special.”

Joining the two Cavaliers standouts are Stanford sophomore Fawcett and Georgia Tech sophomore Eubanks.
As a freshman, Illinois native Fawcett earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. He continued that momentum into his second year, climbing into the Top 10 singles rankings in the country based on a 22-7 record and eight wins against Top 20-ranked collegiate players. On Tuesday, he had the opportunity to hit with Stanford alums Bob and Mike Bryan.

“It’s been great so far, being able to hit with top college guys and then seeing how the pros work on a daily basis,” said Fawcett. “It has been pretty eye-opening to see how that level of doubles is played. This national camp is huge. If I wasn’t here, I’d be back home training, but instead I get to be here with great coaches and great players and hopefully I can take that back home and help it model my game going forward.”

Rounding out the quartet is Eubanks, a lanky 6-foot-7 Georgia native who finished the year ranked No. 8 in the ITA rankings. He was the ACC Player of the Year and a first-team All-ACC selection after leading the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Team Championships.

“It’s not many times that you have the top three Americans that will be in college tennis next year all training together,” said Eubanks, who has trained with Donald Young and recently received a wild card to play doubles at the BB&T Atlanta Open. “You don’t normally get that, so to get to live with and practice with the best Americans is an extreme honor and I am thankful that I was able to be here. Hopefully I can go back home as a better player and continue to grow."

Amritraj and other members of the player development staff make campus visits to gauge progress of the national team members and keep in weekly contact with players’ collegiate coaches to discuss development. In addition, the USTA has a presence at every collegiate event and takes the lead on helping players attend Futures and Challenger events in the summer.

“The requirements are very stringent,” Amritraj said about being selected to the collegiate national team. “It’s American players in Top 600 in the ATP rankings, the NCAA winner, the All-American winner, the Rookie of the Year and the indoor winner. But we also support a lot more people who aren’t on the team. We try to have an expanded presence and we believe these guys have the potential to make it.”

***

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