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EBDEN SHINES AT THE FOREFRONT OF AUSTRALIAN DOUBLES MOVEMENT



Matthew Ebden has been a mainstay at the top of Australian tennis for some time now. Once a crafty singles player, peaking at a career-high ranking of 39 in 2018, he has now switched his attention to the doubles game, plying his trade as a 'doubles specialist.' The move proved fruitful almost immediately, with Ebden making the Australian Open final and taking the illustrious Wimbledon crown alongside Max Purcell in 2022. With Purcell choosing to focus on his singles career, Ebden has teamed up with the 43-year old Indian veteran Rohan Bopanna this year, with the pair combining superbly, even holding the number one doubles team ranking in the points race at various points earlier in the year. Bopanna and Ebden had a strong run at this year's Wimbledon, reaching the semi-finals before losing to eventual champions Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski. In doing so, Ebden cemented his place at the forefront of a strong Australian men's doubles contingent that features 8 Australians in the top 100. For Ebden, this is something that he is especially proud of. "It's been good," he says. "We have a lot of good doubles players. Like Bops [Bopanna] in India, we have a rich heritage of doubles players as well." Ebden is quick to recognise that Australia's strength in doubles is not merely a recent phenomenon but rather, has historically been an integral part of the nation's tennis ethos. "We're channelling the Woodies, one of the best teams ever. So there's a lot of history there and a lot of old guys to learn from." Australia's rich doubles culture has allowed for increased flexibility in the selection of the Davis Cup team, something which was necessary last year when Ebden was ruled out due to an injury meaning that Lleyton Hewitt had to field Jordan Thompson alongside Max Purcell. The move was highly successful, with Purcell and Thompson pulling off a string of upsets to propel Australia into the Davis Cup final. "In our Davis Cup team, all our singles guys can play doubles as well," Ebden says. "Most of our players are utility players which is good for our depth." Australia's doubles strength is even more remarkable given the increased depth of the doubles game, with a number of former singles players joining the doubles tour to raise the quality even further. "In the last three to five years, it has gotten really cut-throat. A lot of extra guys who are at the back end of their singles careers are strengthening the doubles tour and making it tougher which is good for the game. The doubles circuit is getting so competitive that anyone can beat anyone." For Ebden and Bopanna, their focus shifts to the US hardcourt swing after a short break, culminating in the US Open at Flushing Meadows. While they are in a strong position to qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin, they know there is still work to be done. "It was a goal when we started the partnership [to qualify] and I think we are on the right track," says Bopanna. "There's a lot more big tournaments coming up and we definitely have a great shot." With Australia virtually guaranteed to already have representation at the ATP Finals in the form of Australian Open champions Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata, Ebden's success only further highlights the nation's place at the top of men's doubles.


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