MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19:  Matthew Ebden of Australia plays a backhand in his first round match against Marcel Granollers of Spain during day two of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 19, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Ebden eager for Kooyong, predicts late career flourish

Posted on December 21, 2017

Matthew Ebden is the second highest Australian on the ATP world rankings, one of only three in the top 100, and he is confident that the senior years of his career will bring his best tennis on the tour.

The 30-year-old will prepare for next season at the 2018 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic, his first appearance at the historical club celebrating its 30th anniversary from Tuesday 9 – Friday 12 January.

A pair of Challenger Tour wins in November following his first trip to an ATP Tour final in Newport against John Isner from the United States has the world No. 76 inspired to carry that momentum further.

“It’s always something I’ve been interested in and something I’ve wanted to do, so when the opportunity came up (Kooyong) I was definitely excited to come and play at a club with a lot of history,” Ebden said.

“Also, a few of my friends play at the club and I’ll get some good quality matches against guys I know very well too.”

Ebden, who is based in Perth and coached by Liam Smith, missed seven months of 2016 while recovering from a serious knee injury, which eventually led to him losing a protected ranking of 100 leading into this last season.

Yet his performances as a qualifier throughout the season meant that he managed to have a relatively full season on the tour in 2017 as his ranking dropped significantly while racking up 45 wins.

“I had a protected ranking of 100 before I got injured in 2016, so it put everything back 12 months then my real ranking was essentially zero as I didn’t play,” Ebden said.

“So, I had to start again and build up my points, but I was able to qualify for nearly every tournament I went to, with a few challengers in between, but I played mainly a tour schedule.

“It more or less went according to plan.”

Ebden’s form in the second half of this season was particularly strong, which started with a finals appearance at Rhode Island against Isner and finished with those two Challenger Tour titles in November.

In between, he made the round of 16 against world No. 7 David Goffin at the ATP World Tour 500 event Japan Open, taking the Belgian, who featured in final of the ATP Tour Finals, to three sets.

“I’ve always known the level I can play at, have been around 60 in the world a few times in the last seven years,” Ebden explained.

“Last year definitely made me appreciate life on the tour and what we do, so I think that helped me this year keep a level head.

“I reached my first final on the tour in Newport and had a good win/loss ratio on the tour events, I just kept going bit by bit.

“That one I could have easily won, losing 7-6 in the third set.

“I won three matches against guys in the top 70, and Karlovic who was top 30 most of the year, so that just showed where my level was at and I have been playing that level more or less since July.”

Ebden has played in 15 Grand Slam tournaments since 2010, last venturing to the second round at Wimbledon in 2015, two years after winning the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open.

In 2011 the bronze medallist from the 2010 Commonwealth Games won through to the quarter finals at the Shanghai Masters, defeating Gilles Simon before facing eventual champion Andy Murray.

“There’s no secret I want to get into the top 50 and then top 40 – that’s where you need to be all the time to guarantee seedings into every event,” Ebden said.

“My goal has always been to push everything and maximise my potential, whether that is top 50, 25 or 15 that’s what motivates me to keep getting better.

“This year I have definitely made some improvements in my game, physically and I think mentally as well.

“With experience and maturity, I think that’s helping me as the years go by – I think my latter years will continue to get better.

“I wasn’t a world No. 1 junior, I finished school then was top 100 by 23, not the age of 18 like most guys, so I’m hoping to get that five years from now, rather than from 18 to 23.”

2018 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic men’s draw:

Player Country ATP Ranking
Marin Cilic Croatia 5
Dominic Thiem Austria 6
David Goffin Belgium 7
Pablo Carreno Busta Spain 10
Kevin Anderson South Africa 14
Richard Gasquet France 31
Yoshihito Nishioka Japan 67

The men’s draw is loaded with four top-10 players, led by defending two-time Kooyong champion David Goffin who made the final of the ATP Tour Finals in London after defeating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Those wins took the Belgian to number seven in the ATP rankings, just behind world No. 5 and 2017 Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic and world No. 6 Dominic Thiem, who are also playing at Kooyong.

Pablo Carreno Busta from Spain is the fourth top-ten man in the Kooyong draw, which also features big-serving South African Kevin Anderson who comes to Melbourne not long after making the final of the US Open.

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