Ebden working his way back
MATT TROLLOPE sat down with Matt Ebden after his qualifying victory in New York to discuss the West Australian's return to form following a tough 2014.
A final-round qualifying victory over Brydan Klein at Flushing Meadows on Friday saw Matt Ebden secure his place in the US Open main draw.
It was also the continuation of an impressive year that has seen the West Australian win 40 matches and rise from outside the world’s top 350 to the cusp of the top 100.
It’s a welcome return to form for the former world No.61, who endured a challenging season in 2014 marred by injury and illness.
He sat down with MATT TROLLOPE at Flushing Meadows for an exclusive Q&A to discuss last year’s struggles and his subsequent return to form.
Q: Let’s start with today, and qualifying for the US Open. You must be thrilled with that, especially doing so in straight sets.
A: Absolutely. It’s been the kind of year where I’ve had to win a lot of matches for myself and regain my ranking for entries into (tournaments). So I knew what to expect. I just had to put myself in the trenches and fight out from them. That’s been what I’ve been working on with my coach this last five, six months. I’ve won a truckload of matches, and going from strength to strength and just trying to improve my game all the time … you’ve got to make things happen. I’ve played solid this week so far; don’t feel like I’ve played my best tennis yet but I’ve played well enough to get the win which is the aim, so I’ve got to be happy with that and getting through this week. I’ll rest up, get a bit of practice on the weekend and come out and see if I can find my best tennis over the next couple of weeks.
You said this year you’ve won a truckload of matches. You’ve done really well at Challenger level, qualified for a few ATP events and Wimbledon was obviously good. What’s been clicking for you?
I had a bit of a rough year last year. I did win some good matches actually but I played an extra-long claycourt season and that didn’t really help me. We lived away from Australia; we lived in the States most of last year and that didn’t turn out to be the best move either. By July, August I wasn’t feeling good at all. I had a few injury problems and worked out a month later that I had some virus. And for two or three months that was sort of lingering and it sort of explained why I had no energy and I was really fatigued … it took a few months to recover from that.
What was that? Was it mono?
I don’t know. It wasn’t mono. I just had some low blood counts in a couple of areas and it was just a virus; (my doctor) said I could have just picked it up on the road travelling or whatever … (But) it was nice to be in Australia for a few months at the end of last year then put in a good training block. I was fortunate to get the call up for Hopman Cup; that was an awesome way to start the year. And I was playing great there; I was serving for the match but unfortunately had a little injury thing so that took another week (to get over) and hindered me a little for the Aussie Open. So it took me another month or two from there to start winning a lot of matches. By March or April I was starting to put lots of matches on the board. The way the ranking system works, it takes a bit of time to get back (up) there.
Well it hasn’t actually taken you that long. In April you were at 350, and now you’re at 130. That’s a rise of over 200 spots in a couple of months.
Yeah, but six months before that I was No.60, so explain that to me (laughter).
Well you’ve bounced up and down a bit (laughter). But is it a good sign that you’ve been able to shave your ranking so much in such a short space of time?
Yeah absolutely. I mean there’s other things also, across time and years, coaching arrangements, where you’re based and live and where you train. Your schedule and travel. All those things. My other coach stopped around US Open time last year unexpectedly. He got married and that was it. And for a few months also I was working out my team and how I was going to go about things. In February I began talking with my old coach Darren again …
Darren Tandy. I worked with him when I was young, and a few years ago as well when I broke in I worked with him for a year or so. And he’s from Perth as well – we’ve known each other for a long time. So yeah, we just set out some plans and goals for us together as a team, and just been working towards them for the last I guess six months now. We get along great, and I’ve just got a good team around me again and probably set myself on a good path and that was probably the key – getting all the things in place and all the boxes ticked and continue up on the path. So that’s where we’re heading and I’m obviously enjoying life.
You talked about resettling in America and it not working out very well. What was the basis for that move, where did you move to, and why didn’t it work out?
Basically, being Australian, after say January pretty much each year, most of the next 10 months is overseas. And we (Ebden and wife Kim) figured if we’re going to be away from February to at least the US Open for six, seven months, we could have come back (to Australia) in between for a few weeks here or there but (that would have meant) all that travel back and forth. We knew some friends there and a guy I was working with for a little bit in Florida, so we just took a lease on a place and thought we’d have a base there, rather than being in lots of hotels … it was actually really good, it was what we wanted to do, I wouldn’t have changed it. It didn’t work out great results-wise if you call it that, but it was something we’d wanted to try for a long time and see if it worked.
Whereabouts in Florida was it?
Boca Raton. Evert’s Academy, near Miami. We lived right nearby (the academy). A good friend of mine, Ryan Harrison, was living near there, we were training there, the USTA is there. Between Indian Wells and Miami I was there and then I went down and played Miami obviously; I played well, I beat (Lukasz) Kubot and then had the first set against Murray and lost in three. Then after that the claycourt season didn’t go so well. But it was nice to have a place there … After the US Open it was time to go back to Australia. There was just no real need to own a place (in Florida) – if we want to go there we can just get a place for a couple of weeks at the academy or stay with friends. We’re fortunate to have very close friends in a lot of places around the world which sort of gives us some home bases. We love Australia, and we love living there, and our families are there. Our families are important to us too.
One last one. Now that your ranking is up to the point that it’s at, and will probably go a bit higher again after this week, what does that mean in terms of changing your schedule or your goals for the rest of the year? What are you shooting for?
It doesn’t change all that much to be honest. After the US Open we go back to Australia for two or three weeks, little bit of time off and a couple of weeks’ training block with my coach which will be great. Then I’ll play in Asia – maybe a big Challenger, two or three of the tour events, and then after that maybe some more Challengers to keep trying to get as many wins as I can. If I’ve gone really well in the next six weeks – I mean that’s dangerous to say – then maybe some more tour events to finish the year, I don’t know. That’s not going to make too much difference – we know where I’m trying to get to, and I’m on the path we set out.