Matt Ebden from Perth, Australia has continued his rich vein of form scything a path through all opposition at the Cliffs Esperance Men’s Tennis International this week, once again securing both the Singles and Doubles crowns and in so doing mimicking his efforts at the last Futures event in Australia last month in Port Pirie. Scribes were sent delving through record books to find a performance to match that of the ever-improving Ebden. Rarely is it seen for one player to win both events in successive tournaments in the same country. For a number of years a regular contender in his homeland events, it seems his breakthrough victory in South Australia has filled Matt Ebden with supreme confidence, and there is no reason to expect this rich vein of form to subside.
Hosting a Men’s ITF Pro Circuit event for the first time, the Esperance Tennis Club, situated on the picturesque south western coast of Western Australia, approximately ten hours drive south of Perth, welcomed a very strong field in both Mens and Womens events which included comeback players Alicia Molik and Casey Dellacqua in the Women’s and Brydan Klein in the Men’s tournament. Enormous crowds confirmed the huge groundswell of interest in the sport in the region with crowds topping 200 lining the match courts even for qualifying matches. Ebden, seeded 4th, moved effortlessly through the early rounds of the event, utilising his trademark no-nonsense, no mistake style of play. His ability to keep the ball in play even in high pressure moments was put to maximum use as the weather closed in late in the week, with howling gales and squally showers playing havoc with many of the fancied competitors. One could almost sense the wry grin on Ebden’s face in these conditions and he could see the weather taking its toll on his competitors. Despite the challenging conditions, Ebden remained stoic and unphased. In the first round, Matt accounted for Josh Crowe (AUS) 62 61. This was the third successive Futures event that the pair had squared off in the first round. Following this strong performance, Ebden breezed past Kiwi Marcus Daniell 60 63, and Melbourne’s Dayne Kelly, himself a recent Futures winner in Darwin, 63 60 in the quarters in a result that clearly announced Matt as a true contender in the event. In the semis, Ebden faced an in form Robbie Smeets of Queensland, who had toppled top seed Brydan Klein the previous round. The semi was a nip and tuck affair with neither playing giving an inch. A narrow escape in the first set tiebreak was a huge confidence boost as Ebden eventually notched a 76(8) 63 win to advance to the title round. In the final, Ebden squared off against the flamboyant John Millman of Queensland, the 3rd seed. With only a handful of ranking points separating the two, the match was expected to be an even contest. But Ebden broke two of Millman’s first two service games and the tone for the match was set. Leading 41, Ebden momentarily allowed the Queenslander back into the match dropping serve in the 6th game, but then he held his nerve and broke again to take the first set 63. The second set was a tense battle, both players held serve and the only break points early on were in the 7th game when Ebden fought back from a 15-40 deficit. Serving at 45 in the 2nd set, Millman scrambled back from love 40, only to see Ebden grab the last two points to claim the match and his second successive Pro Circuit title 63 64 in front of a totally enthralled and appreciative crowd of 500 people.
In the doubles, Ebden teamed with Pro Circuit powerhouse Colin Ebelthite, himself on the comeback trail, to lift the title in convincing fashion taking the final 61 62 over Dayne Kelly and Jarryd Maher. In nine matches during the tournament, Matt Ebden did not lose a single set. He hopes to carry this form into the remaining two Australian Pro Circuit events in Kalgoorlie and Bendigo and hopefully into the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs at Melbourne Park in December.
The Esperance Tennis Club should be very proud of their effort, their first attempt at hosting an ITF Pro Circuit event. Many hours went into preparing the venue for its first professional event and should ensure the venue remains a permanent stopover on the Australian Pro Tour.