There were plenty of high quality matches played over the course of the week at Roland Garros qualifying. We didn't manage to see every single match, but with so many matches being played on each day, and with Roland Garros designed how it is, it's very simple to have access to lots of the matches in a short amount of time.
On the 4 days of qualifying that we attended, the sun was scorching and the clay courts were playing what felt like faster than a grass court. The courts at Roland Garros are kept in such good quality that the typical 'slow' clay court doesn't really exist. One of the best things about qualifying is the show courts aren't used, only the outside courts, meaning you are able to not only be within metres of the action, but its also normal to be walking round the park with the players walking next to you as they find their way through the crowd on the way to training, a match or simply lunch.
With all of the talent on show, however, there was one match that stood out for us. Paul Jubb from Great Britain versus the big American, Chris Eubanks on court 4. Court 4 is much further away from what would be classed as the 'centre' of Roland Garros park, meaning that old the devoted and most interested fans watch due to the distance as well as the level on the other courts is so good sometimes its worth staying closer to where the action is near Lenglen and Chatrier.
Paul Jubb and Chris Eubanks have a history with each other, as they both know each other well from their college days. For those that don't know, Paul was NCAA singles champion in 2019, a huge feat for any player, and Chris was a two time all American and twice named ACC player of the year. Both players went into the match ranked 231 and 167 respectively.
The match had a mixture of incredible defence, formidable attacking strategy and plenty of soft touch and net play, something that many people don't associate with clay court matches. This is one of the reasons why this match excelled, as the variety and ups and downs from both players made the match entertaining to say the least. Chris Eubanks has a huge stature coming in at 6ft 7in. The quality of his wide second serve on the AD side was so high we are still questioning how Paul managed to even get the ball back let alone win the point. More often than not Paul was returning above his head, and with the huge amount of kick on the ball he was also often in the stands! Of the 68% of 1st serves Eubanks made, he won 69% of them. He only faced 4 break points and hit 11 aces. To the average player, these stats are good enough to win a lot of matches. But it was the return quality as well as the incredible defensive skills that Paul exhibited from start to finish. Paul won 74% of points on second serve. In layman's terms, winning around 50-55% of points on second serve is deemed good, so for Paul to win a huge 74% shows both the quality of his second serve, as well as his defensive skills from the attacking return of Chris Eubanks.
However it wasn't just in the defensive skills from Paul that won him the match, in the 3rd set tie break, he played the big points better, his serve and return improved and his slice backhand (which he had been using all match) started to fizz through the baseline more than it did in the previous two sets. At this point, the court, which isn't one of the biggest, was completely full. Here we had two players battling it out in the 3rd set and it was the smallest of things that made the difference. Eubanks is a big server and likes to be on the attack. So does Paul, however Paul seemed to show more grit and fight when in defence. His athleticism is one of his strongest attributes and it is this that allows his body to get into positions that a lot of players cant. We actually over heard one of the crowd members nearby saying that at any other level, some of the shots that Paul was hitting would be flat out winners. Yet Paul seemed to soak them up and make him play one more ball.
Another one of the reasons why this was a stand out match for us was because of the respect that both players showed each other. Because fans are able to watch the match close up you can often hear the self talk and inner chat that the players are having between themselves. Many times did we hear Jubb say 'that's just too good' when Eubanks hit a forehand winner. Many times did we hear Eubanks say 'great shot Jubby' when Paul had hustled in defence and turned it into a winning volley. We can recall one moment when both players were involved in a long rally, Eubanks had fizzed a backhand crosscourt slice to Jubb, and Jubb, who was off balance and running at full speed managed to keep his body low and flick a backhand winner down the line. Eubanks looked over to his coach and said 'I played that point so well but that's just a great shot from Jubby'. His coach nodded in acknowledgment.
When there is no animosity between the players like this and there is almost a friendly vibe between them, it often means that the players are more relaxed and see the match as a practice match. This then leads to less pressure and that then results in both players flowing and playing with more freedom. What we loved about this match was the way that both players played with all of their skills on show. Often matches are bogged down in this 'clay court' style of play, however this match offered more of an all court viewing. Both players showed respect to each other and the crowd appreciated watching Jubb soak up the pressure from Eubanks to then turn it back on him, especially in the decisive moments. The day after the match we were lucky enough to speak to Eubanks at an ASICS event, and he continued to speak about Jubb is a respectful way. He said hopefully next time he will get him and maybe on a hard court. With that serve and stature we have no doubt that Jubb's defence will be tested even more and it will provide a great fixture at any tennis event.
We have included some videos for you to see some of the action. Thanks for reading.