Tag Archive: Matt Ebden


It’s time for my beloved weekly series*, Sunday’s Challenger Champions!  If it’s Sunday, then it must be time to take a look at this week’s titlists.

First and definitely foremost, almost-Argie Pablo Cuevas is one of the more popular champions in recent memory. The former ATP #45 has been injured for the past two years, didn’t play a match in 2012 and was considering retirement. But the current ATP #401 rolled into the $75K Copa Topper Buenos Aires Challenger and promptly rolled through the field.

Cuevas, The Almost Argie

Cuevas, The Almost Argie

Well, it wasn’t that easy. But he started off with a straight-set win vs. 4th seed Thomaz Bellucci and straight-setted and walkovered his way to the semi-final, where he met and beat 22-year-old Argentine (and frequent WATCH Lister) Guido Andreozzi 7-6(0) 6-0 6-3. Then it was onto the final, where he faced the fiery Argie, Facundo Arguello, he of the fearsome forehand and Gaudio-esque temper.

Arguello’s been on my W.A.T.C.H. Lists practically every week, so he’s up and definitely coming.  And Arguello went up early 3-0*, his forehand seeming laser-sharp and -focused, but Cuevas rallied (literally, hurr hurr) to force a TB.  (Along the way, fiery Facu violently bounced his racket right in front of a frightened ballboy, and also destroyed a courtside microphone, making me quite terrified that I ever referred to his hair as Muppet-like. Don’t Fac with Facu!)

Cuevas had the breaker on his racket, but double-faulted to 5-all.  He got a set point on Arguello’s serve, but the Argie saved it with a wrong-footing forehand. The next set point was on Cuevas’s serve, and the Uruguayan made no mistake, opening the point up with a beautiful backhand down the line and finishing the point and the high-quality, ATP-level set with an inside-in forehand winner.

The next two sets weren’t as inspired, but the end was dramatic. Pablo went on walkabout in set two, with Arguello winning it 6-2.  Cuevas went up an early break and led 4-1*.  After a lengthy medical time-out for Arguello, the 21-year-old firebrand came out and held then broke and suddenly we were back on serve in the decider.

Tight from there until the very last point, where Cuevas broke to take the title 7-6(6), 2-6, 7-5 and fell to his knees in triumph. Since his mother is Argentinian, he was born in Argentina, and he trains in Buenos Aires itself, the crowd loved his victory.

Cuevas will leap back into the Top 250 with the win, and Arguello will rise to a career high ~#135 when the new rankings are released on Monday. It was Cuevas’s 7th Challenger title (in ten attempts), but his first challenger final since 2010.

At the Kazan Kremlin Cup $75K Challenger, former Oklahoma State University standout Oleksandr Nedovyesov continues his near-meteoric rise through the ATP ranks, claiming the $10,800 that comes with the title as well as the 100 ATP points to add to his ever-building cache.  Other than a three-set struggle in round two against Belarussian Egor Gerasimov, Nedovyesov veritably breezed into the final, where he met hit-or-miss Kazakh blaster, Andrey Golubev.

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Welcome back to the series everyone is talking about*!  The one in which we examine the questions: how advantageous is it to have the home court on the ATP tour?  Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?  (You know, the pressing issues of the day.)

Let’s have a look at the data:

Player Home Hard Court Win% Away Hard Court Win%  Home  Clay  Win %  Away  Clay  Win % Home Grass Win % Away Grass Win % Overall Home Win % Overall Away Win % % of matches played at home
Matt Ebden 58.14% 59.04% 0.00% 40.63% 68.97% 61.54% 58.64% 56.42% 35.37%
James Duckworth 46.30% 58.82% 60.00% 70.33% 60.00% 50.00% 49.28% 65.69% 33.50%
John Millman 55.74% 68.70% 69.23% 53.42% 85.71% 45.45% 60.49% 60.48% 27.84%
Nick Kyrgios 77.27% 65.45% N/A 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 73.91% 63.93% 27.38%
Sam Groth 59.80% 56.69% 68.75% 52.08% 70.00% 67.39% 62.32% 57.82% 31.94%
Matt Reid 59.81% 50.89% 41.67% 63.33% 44.44% 46.67% 57.03% 55.50% 36.99%
J.P. Smith 28.57% 70.73% N/A 60.00% 50.00% 50.00% 31.25% 64.54% 10.19%
Greg Jones 58.06% 53.90% 77.78% 58.93% 66.67% 55.26% 61.04% 54.32% 35.65%
Matthew Barton 62.07% 56.52% 42.86% 40.00% 42.86% 0.00% 56.56% 55.56% 65.95%
Ben Mitchell 65.79% 62.16% 64.71% 25.00% 75.00% 0.00% 66.19% 51.52% 58.40%
Player Home HC Wins Home HC Loss Away HC W Away HC Loss Home Clay W Home Clay L Away Clay W Away Clay L Home Grass W Home Grass L Away Grass W Away Grass L
Matt Ebden 75 54 111 77 0 4 13 19 20 9 24 15
James Duckworth 25 29 20 14 6 4 64 27 3 2 6 6
John Millman 34 27 79 36 9 4 39 34 6 1 5 6
Nick Kyrgios 17 5 36 19 0 0 2 2 0 1 1 1
Sam Groth 61 41 89 68 11 5 25 23 14 6 31 15
Matt Reid 64 43 57 55 5 7 57 33 4 5 7 8
J.P. Smith 4 10 58 24 0 0 12 8 1 1 7 7
Greg Jones 72 52 83 71 14 4 33 23 8 4 21 17
Matthew Barton 54 33 26 20 12 16 2 3 3 4 0 2
Ben Mitchell 75 39 46 28 11 6 5 15 6 2 0 5

In Part I of the Home and Away series, we saw that American players spend the majority of their year at home. Even Wayne Odesnik, who spends the most time playing abroad, spends 64.4% of his match time in North America.

This time around, we see the Aussies are just the opposite**.  Since there aren’t enough events (and enough points on offer) inside of Australia, the Oz contingent must hit the road to ply their trade***. And once they’re overseas, they try to stay awhile; these guys (the smart ones, anyway) aren’t going to fly 24 hours to a destination only to play one event.  That eventually would be fiscal, if not physical, suicide.

So away they stay.  Whereas the American Top 20 play an average of 81% of their matches at home, the Aussie Top 10 (of those who still play regularly on the Challenger/Futures Pro Circuit) only play an average of 36% of their matches in Australia.  Of that bunch, the person most like Marge Simpson’s husband (in that he’s the biggest homer) is also the only guy to play more than 37% of his matches at home. That would be 21-year-old Matthew Barton (with a whopping 66% of his matches played at home), and this year even he has played the majority of his tennis Up Over (as opposed to, you know, Down Under).

Homer and Matthey have never been seen in the same place, which I think is kinda suspicious.

Homer and Matthew have never been seen in the same place, which I think is kinda suspicious.

Although one must reconsider the definition of “home tennis” when one considers the case of one John-Patrick “J.P.” Smith. The 24-year-old Townsville, Australia native made another home for himself in Knoxville, USA, where he was a four-time ITA All-American in singles and doubles at the University of Tennessee.  Hmmmm, an Australian All-American, eh?  The plot thickens.

When we look at the numbers, we see that J.P.’s only ostensibly played 10% of his matches at “home” (i.e. Australia).  And he performs far better on non-Australian soil — he wins 64.5% of his “away” matches, as opposed to his 31% in Oz.  It seems as if the table is inverted where J.P.’s concerned, and his true tennis home is much more Americentric these days.

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Delraving In Delray – Day Two Qualifying Adventures

Day two of qualifying at the Delray Beach ATP dawns as spiffily as the day before. Play starts at noon, so it’s already nice and toasty by the time this day’s matches begin. I start out watching last week’s San Jose doubles champ Rajeev Ram take on top seed Blaz Kavcic, but none of my pens want to start the day with me – they all refuse to write and are seemingly out of ink. Crisis! Are all my pens protesting? Is my writing so awful that they just refuse to cooperate? (Don’t answer that.) Regardless, I find my friend Paul in the crowd and he gives me a nifty felt tip jobber, which I later exchange for some ball points with his lovely wife. So those two get all the credit/blame for the following report. Thanks you guys!

What? Tennis? Sure. Speaking of ball points… Kavcic plays some unbelievably good, scrambly backhands early. The 23-year-old Slovenian – who won his first round match at the Australian Open against Kevin Anderson in his coach’s shoes after his pair ripped and he didn’t have a spare – scurries all over the court, as ever (and presumably in his own shoes). He hits some superb passing shots, ultimately breaking Ram in the fourth game with a low and reaching backhand crosscourt pass and a grunt of maximum effort.

Blaz’s court-blazing ways are on full display in the first set, and people around me are all checking their OOP sheets, saying “What’s this guy’s name again?” To Ram’s credit, he sticks and carves some nice-looking volleys and gets the break back when Kavcic suddenly can’t find his forehand while serving for the set at 5-3.

Blaz cracks his racquet to make it pay for its forehandular transgressions. But the scruffy Slovene breaks right back, as Ram cedes the next game thanks in part to a double fault and some forehand errors. First set to the top seed 6-4.

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Delray Day One – aka Aussie Wildcard Playoff Redux

The day dawns warmly and beautifully at the ATP 250 Delray Beach for the first day of qualifying action. It’s so toasty, in fact, that this February day in South Florida offers a reasonable facsimile of what I’d imagine Australia was like around, say, the Tennis Australia Wildcard playoffs. Not content to merely imagine, I proceed to track down every Aussie on the grounds throughout the day, it seems.

I arrive early and scavenge the practice courts. First and best stop of interest is out on Court 6, where none other than International Tennis Hall of Famer Mark Woodforde is out with new charges Marinko Matosevic and Matt Ebden, helping them with their serves (note: they’re all Australian). “Use the same setup when you go down the ‘T’,” he advises Matosevic. “Gotta get that disguise.” Matosevic scolds himself for each little technical transgression but is very supportive of Ebden.

In the first match of the day, I see Ebden put that serve to good use, as he faces 2010 Easter Bowl champ, 17-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo, who received a wildcard into qualifying. Ebden serves five aces and just one double fault, connecting successfully on seventy percent of his first deliveries, and winning 79% of those.

Ebden serves vs. Fratangelo

Fratangelo is overmatched, sure, but it’s among the more impressive less-than-an-hour defeats I’ve seen in a while. If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, I don’t mean to be. He hits some terrific-looking backhands, displaying excellent footwork, balance and technique, outright catching the man from Perth flat-footed on a few. Good movement and the occasional ripping forehand, too (although he seems a bit more inconsistent off that wing).

Ultimately, though, the Western Australian is just that much stronger and steadier, on serve and otherwise. He advances 6-2 6-3 to the next round, where he’ll face second seed Igor Kunitsyn, a 7-5 4-6 6-2 winner over Tim Smyczek.

I watch a bit of Smyczek, who looks good in the set I see him play (I’ll let you guess which one that was), then move to catch top-seeded Blaz Kavcic against the popular Ecuadoran, the 28-year-old Giovanni Lapentti. From Smyczek to Kavcic – seems poetic enough to me. Oh, wait. Back up a bit. While watching Smyczek, I’m treated to the unintentional hilarity of well-meaning fans accosting poor Woodforde while he watches yet another Aussie, Mr. Samuel Groth, fire some first balls.

One gent tells Woody that he got his autograph at Disneyworld in 1999. Another quizzes him about long ago matches vs. the Bryan Bros. “Do you remember that match?” the beset upon coach is asked. “Yeah, we played them a few times,” Woodforde answers patiently, while trying to do his job. Good man.

OK. Kavcic. Lapentti. What can I say? Blaz blazed through the tired-looking younger Lapentti bro, taking some time to gripe along the way, as per. The 23-year-old Slovenian is one of those players whose venting just amuses me (though not in a Joe Pesci way). With others’ negativity, there’s a real sense of menace. With Blaz, it’s just what he does. The Courier-esque baseliner, currently on a career high of #83 in the rankings, displays his usual tenacity and scrambling – with bits of skill and volleying thrown in for good measure. The net result is all kinds of not bad – he advances 6-2 6-2 and will play Rajeev Ram in QR2, who won 7-5 6-2 over local fave and wildcard winner Eric Hechtman.

As today is turning into an Ozsome theme day, I check in on how Matosevic is faring against 28-year-old South African Raven Klaasen.

That’s So Raven

Under a watchful Wood(e)y(e), he’s playing haphazardly, as has been the case for 2011. At 3-all in the third set, he looks up at the chair umpire. “Score?” he inquires. Then he ma-tosses in three consecutive service winners from 15-0 and flashes a cheeky, little-boy smile to his coach, like, “Look what I just did!” He reels off the next eight points to win the match 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3. Amazing how he can just seem to click his game “on” sometimes and thereafter look unbeatable. He’s similar to Alex Bogdanovic, in that respect. When it’s all going right, you think, “How is this guy not Top 50? Top 25?” It seems so effortless. Sadly for them (and possibly for us as well), it hardly ever all goes right.

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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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