MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10:  Matt Ebden of Australia plays a forehand against Marin Cilic of Croatia in the 2018 Kooyong Classic at Kooyong on January 10, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Ebden takes down Cilic at Kooyong, expects best tennis to come

Posted on January 10, 2018

Matt Ebden insisted his best tennis is still yet to come after recently turning 30 following a strong performance at the 2018 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic to defeat world Bo. 6 Marin Cilic.

The number two ranked Australian played some commanding shots in the second set and then held it together in the third to beat the Croatian 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 who featured in last season’s Wimbledon final.

Coming off a strong year that effectively started without a ranking due to an extended injury absence in 2016, Ebden made his first ATP Tour final in 2017 before claiming two Challenger titles last November.

“This is the kind of level I need to maintain every day and get across the line more often than not,” Ebden said after the match.

“It’s the key to win those close ones like today.

“This is still an event in its own right and there’s an unbelievable field here with Rafa and Novak, and Marin it’s great to be a part of it.

“That really high level is what I want to step up to, just keep improving and see how good I can get.”

A minor knee injury that took some time to properly diagnose kept Ebden on the sidelines for the second half of 2016 and definitely left him more determined that ever to reach his potential on the court.

“Age is a really strange one, it’s been tripping me out the last few months,” he explained.

“Particularly when I was heading towards 30, I really honestly feel 24 or 25, I feel in great shape and I’ve definitely improved three or four things in my game the last 12 to 18 months.

“I probably turned the corner mentally a bit two years ago after being out a bit, got a really good appreciation for the game and what we’re able to do.”

Despite the loss Cilic, who won the US Open title in 2014, was satisfied with his efforts against Ebden and believed a strong three-set match in the sun would hold him in good stead for the Australian Open next week.

“What is most important for me is to get the body going and feel the conditions,” Cilic said.

“Today was great to play with Matt, he obviously played a great match and for me it was important just to find a good rhythm and go after my shots.

“I was missing a little bit today but overall I’m quite happy with where I’m at.”

The 29-year-old reached a career high of four on the world rankings late last year and will be in the mix of those eyeing off a spot in the final at Melbourne Park given the injuries and absences in the men’s draw.

“Pre-season went really good,” he said.

“I felt that we worked a lot physically and a few different areas in my game.

“We did a fair bit of analysis after the year to try and get ready for the news season… I worked a little bit more on my serve, just a few more details technically and also just being a little bit more aggressive.”

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