Melbourne, Australia, 13 January 2022 | Darren Parkin

Matt Ebden edged a step closer to the main draw of Australian Open 2022, with a commanding victory in the second round of qualifying. 

The veteran was outstanding from start to finish, fighting off a strong early challenge from teenager Dominic Stephan Stricker. 

Ebden serve-and-volleyed to great effect in the first set, winning eight points at the net to zero. He struck 21 winners, six aces, faced zero breakpoints and won 77 per cent of points on first serve, closing it out in a tiebreak against his Swiss opponent.

He consolidated the strong first-set finish by creating the first breakpoint opportunities of the match in the opening game of the second. 

Stricker fought his way out but was eventually broken in the fifth and seventh games of the set.

An increasingly dominant Ebden went on to secure a 7-6(2) 6-2 victory.

It followed a tougher test over No.27 seed Mats Moraing in the opening round, which saw Ebden return to the practice court.

“Even though I won on Tuesday, I wasn’t very happy with how I was striking the ball,” he said.

“I went straight back out on the practice court and worked on a few things with my team. It feels like that came together well today.

“It’s nice to be playing well at the start of the year and I’m feeling really fresh.”

The 34-year-old West Australian is now just one game away from a ninth main draw singles appearance at the Australian Open. 

Holland’s Jesper De Jong, meanwhile, claimed his second consecutive Australian scalp, downing teenager Edward Winter in straight sets. In the previous round he eliminated Akira Santillan. 

At age 17, Winter was making his Australian Open qualifying debut when he defeated former World No.6 Gilles Simon in the opening round.

While his qualifying run ended, Winter will target success in the AO 2022 boys’ singles event, after travelling to a Grade One ITF event in Traralgon next week.

He does so having earned chances against De Jong, despite some disparity on the stats board.   The Dutchman struck 30 total winners to five from Winter and converted four of seven breakpoint opportunities to secure his 6-1 6-2 victory.

“Jesper played a really good match. I felt like my serve struggled out there but full credit to him as he won all the key points,” Winter reflected.

“I feel like the match was a bit closer than what the scoreline was. Some of those 30 all and deuce points that I was winning in the first match, I wasn’t getting that done in this match.”

Winter will take valuable lessons from the week. “I think the experience today was just as good as the first round because that’s the level I need to be at to keep growing my game and developing,” he commented.

“That Gilles match was definitely a step up from juniors, as was today. I need to keep working on getting stronger so I can last with these guys.” 

Men’s qualifying, second round
Matthew Ebden (AUS) d Dominic Stephan Stricker (SWI) 7-6(2) 6-2
Jesper De Jong (NED) d [WC] Edward Winter (AUS) 6-1 6-2

Women’s qualifying singles, final round
[WC] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) v [11] Harriet Dart (GBR)

Men’s qualifying singles, final round
Matthew Ebden (AUS) v [2] Norbert Gombos (SVK)