Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2012 | Matt Trollope
Australian men’s No.2 Matt Ebden says yesterday’s five-set loss to Japanese 24th seed Kei Nishikori has motivated him to improve even further.
Ebden, who enjoyed a career-best season last year in cracking the top 100 before winning his first Grand Slam main draw match this week, looked set to continue his fairytale run when he took a commanding position over his more celebrated opponent in their second round match on Margaret Court Arena.
But Nishikori hit back despite requiring injury timeouts for both leg and foot complaints, reeling in Ebden’s lead and eventually running out a 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 winner.
“I think it’s extremely disappointing, but I have to give him a bit of credit. Probably for an hour and a half he might have missed less than five balls,” Ebden said.
Part of the Japanese’s revival was due to his increasing go-for-broke style, which paid significant dividends. Ebden said that Nishikori didn’t miss a return from the third set until the end of the match, even taking massive strikes at Ebden’s first serve and forcing the Australian to play shots at his feet.
“That’s where I’ve got to become stronger to lift my serve speeds, variations. My serve’s got to be better to not allow him to do that,” Ebden said.
Yet despite the loss, it was in fact Ebden who appeared in better physical shape as the match progressed.
He said that physically he suffered no problems in his first career five-set match at Grand Slam level, and in a demonstration of his highly competitive and intense nature, Ebden revealed that he went for an intense 30-minute run after the match to prove that he could last six, seven or eight sets if he needed to.
Ebden said he would be examining his game to find areas where he can improve, determined not to let the same fate befall him. And although understandably disappointed at yesterday’s result, he seems to have retained a healthy perspective regarding the current state of his career.
“Here I am doing what I love, so I’m just going to take it on the chin, look to be better, stronger, fitter, become a better player out of it and try to win that one next time,” he said.
“My game off the ground (has) got to become better so I can stay in control of those points and still control him, even if he’s having a crack, still look to play my aggressive game.
“I’ll keep working on things to make that happen.”