Hey guys?  Remember when I quoted Conor Niland in this post, the one with the terrific article about the Irish #1?  Well, allow me to do it once more, with feeling:

People just don’t understand the depth of talent out there. They see a guy ranked 100 and think ‘oh he can’t be very good. He must be a part-timer’. But there are guys in the 700s and they’re seriously good players. I’m not just saying that. It sounds a big number but there are hundreds of good tennis players. It’s a bottleneck. Everybody’s trying to beat each other. Everybody’s looking for the same thing.

Conor Niland, Seriously Good Tennis Player

I believe his point has been proven once more, in the form of the talented and hard-working Australian Matt Ebden, 23, ranked #196 in the world.  Matty, you see, just took out the 8th seed (and world #40) Denis Istomin to advance to the quarterfinals of the Brisbane International ATP 250.

Check out the highlights here.  Some spectacular play from both men.  Keep in mind, though, that Mr. Ebden is ranked just inside the Top 200 as you watch:

Now, I confess: I think Ebden is currently ranked beneath where his true talent and potential will eventually take him.  But allow me to claim (t)his success in two ways: 1) yet another illustration that Challenger Tour players are seriously good. And ii) men’s players are peaking at much older ages than ever before.

When I made my Challenger Tennis Players To Watch series (which, btw, is still in progress and shall resume after this week’s challenger events are completed), one of my selection criteria was that a player had to be under 22 years of age.  So, while I think there are loads of Top 250 Aussies who have Top 100 potential (and went with John Millmanwhom Ebden edged 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the 1st round), I was not allowed by my own arbitrary criterion to chose Matt as a PTW.  I know this sounds like opportunistic hindsight and/or Thursday morning quarterbacking on my part, but – I really wanted Ebden on my list, but he was “too old” at age 23 (and 4 months).

Well, the joke’s on me.  My feeling is, ATP players do not have to be in the Top 200 by age 22 in order to have Top 50 or Top 20 potential, even.  I’ve seen Ebden play a ton, and I know what he’s capable of.  And I also know that what you saw in that video above, you can see in Heilbronn, or Charlottesville, or Noumea, or wherever the challenger circuit may lead. 

Sorry if I’m sounding preachy.  Suffice it to say that Ebden’s win is a nice, concise symbol of everything I blather about so lengthily here. And of what Conor said above.  Don’t sleep on these guys in the Top 200.  In fact, go out to a Challenger or Futures event and see them for yourselves.

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