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Posted By Jedd Zetzer  
12:00 PM

Australian Matthew Ebden joined The First Serve’s Jedd Zetzer for a chat whilst quarantining in the Australian Open bubble. 

The 33 year old unfortunately went down in the opening round of Australian Open qualifying in Doha. He spoke about his experience travelling to Doha and being back out on court for the first time in over ten months. 

“It was a strange one, obviously myself and a few others decided last year to not go away for the last few months of last year and stay in Australia and wait for the new season to start in Australia in January. Then all of a sudden I found myself having to go to Doha for qualifying, which was very strange. I didn’t really believe it at first, but that was the only option in the end and one I had to do.

Then I had to come back and join this modified quarantine, which I’m now sitting in. It was very strange but nice to be started with the new season. I didn’t win, but I had every chance to win my match so that was okay, it’s a positive after not playing tour level for the last nine or ten months. It was fine, up and running and into the year now,” Ebden said.

The Aussie went down to fellow Australian Jason Kubler in a tight contest, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6.

“I didn’t obviously get through qualifying, but that’s fine. I think I had 12 break points, only converted four, I had set points first set, won the second, lost a close third, even the last game I probably should’ve broke back and I think I won more points in the match, so I’m not too fussed about that. I felt comfortable out there, moving well, just obviously a little rusty match play. I couldn’t convert those points, missing a few shots here and there, even that’s not a big issue, that’ll come pretty quick, so I’m just happy to be back in the swing of things.”

Ebden, among a plethora of players set to compete in the Aussie Summer of Tennis arrived in Melbourne, hoping to be out of his room training after returning a negative COVID test, but when flights landing in Melbourne started to return positive COVID tests, training was delayed. 

“It’s a tricky one, we arrived 3am Saturday morning. Our flight landed from Doha and then we go through the protocols in the airport. By the time I was in the room, I think I went to sleep at 4am. 

I had to get my first test in the morning - the idea was within 24 hours we’d get our negative test results back and then be able to practice on Sunday. 

Then Sunday came around, they cancelled practice because there was starting to be issues with flights, so we couldn’t leave our room at all for Saturday and Sunday. Then it got to Monday morning, I was supposed to go practice early at 7am. We were waiting in our room for a knock on the door to come get us to take us out to practice, bearing in mind it’s the whole weekend stuck in our room with no air, no windows, so I was looking forward to going outside to go practice and whatnot. 

Then we just ended up waiting five or six hours for a knock on the door that just never came. By lunchtime we got some confirmation that there had been issues with transport and government clearance and all sorts but basically practice was cancelled again for the day, so that took us to Tuesday, so that was three full days of just stuck in our room.

Obviously all the drama with all the other flights and the people who had to do 14 days stuck in their room, which is horrible, I couldn’t imagine, I mean I know there are people out there making fun of no fresh air or whatever but I can tell you it’s not fun being in a hotel even for three days stuck in your room, never mind those people that have to do 14 days, its brutal,” Ebden stated.

“My practice partner Blake Mott, fellow Aussie, he’s been here as well and we’ve been practicing.”

Ebden, like fellow Australians Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios made the decision not to travel when the tour resumed late last year after several months off due to COVID. 

“Last year I hit the ground running. First couple of months I was playing and started to find some form and then from March until August, September, there was no tennis tour, there was no travel. Then there was potentially two or three months at the end of the year which I could’ve maybe gone but because my ranking was a bit low from some injury and time off the year before, I couldn’t really get into the tournaments I wanted to get in. Then also two weeks hard quarantine in a hotel upon returning to Australia, it just wasn’t really all worth it for me, so I made that decision,” Ebden explained.

The world no. 319 is set to compete in one of the ATP events in the week leading into the Australian Open in both singles and doubles, before competing in doubles and mixed doubles in his home grand slam. 

“The first week there’s the ATP 250 events and the ATP Cup all running simultaneously at Melbourne Park, so I will be in Melbourne 1 in the doubles. I’m pretty sure they’re going to increase the draw sizes for the main draw singles and I’ll probably get in even the main draw in the singles as well so that will be good. A chance to get some more matches and get going. 

Then into Aussie Open, planning to play doubles and mixed doubles. I’m playing with JP Smith through that time. We’re on the cusp of being an alternate to get in on our ranking, otherwise hopefully a wildcard if we need one. Obviously it would be better to get in on our rankings and not have to rely on anything. That will take us through to February.”

Listen in to the full interview with Matt on your preferred podcast platform below.