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January 1, 2018

Matthew Ebden

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

M. EBDEN/F. Tiafoe

6-3, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You must be really thrilled at the moment.
MATTHEW EBDEN: Yeah, thanks. Yeah, it's a great start to the year, first of all. You know, I went out there trying to do, you know, a good few things, and I was able to do all of them.

So that's really encouraging for my level, pick up sort of where I left off. You know, I was playing into middle, late November, so not that long, only a month ago. But still, to come out and play the first match and still feel like I'm in the momentum and swing of things, that's a really great feeling and just really settling.

And, yeah, it's a great way to settle into the new season.

Q. Do you think you're playing as well as you were in 2012?
MATTHEW EBDEN: It's hard to compare or say exactly, unless I watched tons of my own matches and really pinpointed things. But I think I am a better player. I'm more evolved.

Things I was doing back then, I was relying more on a variety of things to get me over the line, not just good tennis, but also my movement, my defensive abilities. You know, even the way I was returning serve. Even my own serve now, particularly second serve.

And, yeah, just probably three or four little key things I've been working really well on the last 18 months and the last 12 months and 9 months specifically that have been becoming more to fruition.

So, yeah, all around I think, yeah, for sure I'm a better player. Whether or not that shows exactly in the rankings or whatnot yet, that's to be seen.

But last year, I did have some career firsts and that was encouraging for me. I had my first final. I wasn't far off winning my first title. I had a positive win/loss ratio on the tour. Obviously made a big jump up in the rankings.

But I stuck to my schedule. I played mostly on the tour until the end of the season and then finished with some challenges and then I was able to win some of those.

So, yeah, it's very encouraging signs. And, yeah, I'm preparing for the best tennis ahead of me, I think, yeah.

Q. Did you think you could do it? Like, I guess there would have been some doubts that you were getting too old, I guess, to keep going?
MATTHEW EBDEN: Yeah, the age thing never really crossed my mind.

Do you think you could do it? I guess that's physically. Yeah, when you're out injured, even when they tell you, Oh, it's a minor problem, you'll be fine in a few weeks, you still think to yourself, Oh, what if it's not or what if I'm still hurting, or things like that.

And, yeah, obviously bearing in mind I was in my -- you know, end of my 20's, you start to think, Oh, well this isn't forever. It might only be another year or two, or six or seven, but it might not be. So definitely crossed a little line with appreciation for the sport and what we do.

And, yeah, we had to sit down and say, look, where am at and what do I -- well, look, I know the level I can play as a player. You don't lose that. If you've been at a player level and you've played that consistently over years and years, it's not a fluke. You know the level that you can play and it was just about replicating that and getting better.

And I think I could do a lot better than I've done in the past and that's really what motivated me to get back up again. Because, obviously, 12 months before that, my ranking had slipped. I got sort of all the way back to about 100 in eight months and I had nothing to defend. For the next four months, I was hopefully on my way to 50 or better, and then had the injury and missed basically all that season so I had to do it all again this last year.

I was encouraged that I could do it, and whilst doing it I was able to work on and actually implement things in my game while I was doing that. So I didn't just revert to my older style of playing to, you know, get the results, but more looking to the future, I suppose, a bit more.

Q. Speaking of style of play, I have no stats to back this up, but it seemed to me that you were coming in more. Is that common for you?
MATTHEW EBDEN: Yeah, yeah, it is. You know, over the years since I broke in top 123 or started making a push at 22, 23, yeah, it's for sure one of my strengths is coming in, my movement and my net game.

And then, you know, I built the rest of my game really well around, I guess, my serve, my forehand, and now even my backhand to be able to use my speed and close down the court and be more neutral and aggressive, when I can, rather than being -- you know, being on the defensive sometimes and being on the attack sometimes.

And little things like, you know, the quality of your second serve or your quality of your return or your backhand or your -- some shots, you know, if they're better quality, then you're not pushed on the defense as much. Or if the way you return is more aggressive, then you're able to start the points a bit more assertive or a bit more aggressively.

And, yeah, just a combination of a whole lot of little things. Yeah, net game is definitely something that's been good for me ever since I was a kid. I always volleyed and played doubles a lot. I've won four or five tour titles in doubles. I won a Grand Slam. I won an Aussie Open in mixed doubles. I've won Davis Cup doubles matches and singles as well.

So, yeah, I've had, yeah, a lot of success around the net, too, and that definitely helps my singles game. And I think even, you know, my game style even, you know, going into my late 20's or 30 now, still I don't feel -- well, I feel 24, 25, to be honest. Like, it really spins me out in my head that I'm 30. It's really, really strange, but I suppose most people feel like that. Everyone I come across, I ask them, I say, Well, how old do you feel? What do you feel? And nearly -- most people say younger and some people say older.

But, yeah, it's a strange one, but, yeah, just kept trying to find the best way forward for me and my game and my body and everything. So that's, you know, going reasonably well.

Q. How much of a difference is there in your playing style which helps you?
MATTHEW EBDEN: Well, yeah, I mean, there are sort of hidden stats that you probably don't see or that most people don't quite look at or see.

Look, I'm not someone who is -- like, Mischa is serve and volleying every point. He's a serve-volleyer and he really has -- that's his main game. He doesn't really have that much on the forehand or the backhand, but he sort of hustles and then he uses his serve and his volley and comes to net at all costs.

That's not really me. I'm sort of more all-court kind of player. Like, I'll play from the back. Some matches I might come to the net three or four times the whole match. But maybe a bit better for me to come in 10 to 20 times, a little bit of serve and volley, come in when I can.

And I think over the years at the Slams, now with all the data on that you see, I think two years ago at US Open the stats were playing from the baseline you were, at best, winning 49 or 50 percent of the points, anybody. And people who were serve-volleying or coming to the net, they were winning 67 to 70 percent of those points. So the winning stat for that tournament was definitely coming around the net.

You see Roger doing it, everyone, even guys like Rafa. You think of Rafa as just a baseliner and the forehand, but he's playing as aggressive as he can using the backhand or the forehand to then come in and finish at the net. He does it a lot. Roger, same. Ferrer, even, like, you know, you think of him as a grinder running, but any time he can, he's taking the forehand or taking it early and coming to finish at the net.

So, you know, the court's never going to change. Well, so far it hasn't in the history of tennis, but, you know, the dimensions and the size of the court are there. And, yeah, there's definitely in the history been, obviously, a lot of serve-volley, and then it's kind of gone to really back to the baseline a lot, and now there's a bit of a mixture.

So everyone is different and I think it depends on what you can and can't do. And I'm fortunate to have sort of the skills to play an all-court game. And so yeah, definitely try to use that to my advantage.

Q. Early thoughts on what you need to do well to win against Kyrgios?
MATTHEW EBDEN: Yeah. Same sort of the thing. Nick is a good player just like everyone else. In two years' time, Frances might be 25, or I might be 22 in the world, or Nick might be 10 or might be 30. Who knows. So the levels are all close.

Nick has obviously got a great serve. That's one of his biggest weapons that carried him through well the last few years with his upsets and good results that he's had. He's obviously good around the court. He moves well for a big guy.

Yeah, same sort of thing. You know, I think I played 50 to 80 matches last year and, you know, it would be about doing the same things well, you know, that I tried to do most times.

There's no real difference playing Nick. I'm sure he's got a little bit bigger serve than some guys, but last year I played Karlovic, I played Isner, these kind of guys. So I wouldn't say Nick's serve is maybe as big or as tall as those guys', but he's obviously very accurate, uses it well. So it's no secret.

Then, yeah, I've got to obviously serve well myself, use my strengths well. Just, yeah, all the little things. So just got to come out to play a good level, a really high quality level, try to do that day in and day out all season again and see what I can do.

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