Sometimes a tournament’s results forces a writer to change direction when composing a piece. I’m sure the Shanghai Rolex Masters has done that to quite a few tennis scribes this week with the plethora of seeds falling early including today’s surprise victory of Florian Mayer over Rafael Nadal today. I myself was all set to write about Australia’s rising star Bernard Tomic who seems primed for a run at the top 20 next year. But instead, it was another young Aussie, Matthew Ebden, who earned a spot into the Shanghai quarters today and with it, earned the right to be called a player to watch for 2012.
The first time I ever saw Ebden was early this year in Melbourne when he lost a tough four set match to American veteran Michael Russell. At the time Ebden was ranked #185 and since the Australian Open, Ebden has done the hard yards in qualifying for tournaments while his fellow Aussie Tomic has climbed into the top 50 based on improved results including a run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon this summer. Ebden has found success primarily on the doubles court with titles in Newport with Ryan Harrison and in Atlanta with Alex Bogomolov, Jr.
With his three set win today over Gilles Simon, Ebden, who qualified for the main draw in Shanghai, will face top seed Andy Murray tomorrow, and though he’s expected to lose that one, Ebden’s ranking will climb somewhere near the mid 80’s, likely ensuring him for a main draw berth in Melbourne this coming January. In his press conference today, Ebden talked about him and his team mapping out where he should be at age 23 and landing in the top 50 may be a doable goal if he can build on his success this week.
With Lleyton Hewitt literally on his last legs, the tradition of Australian men’s tennis would seem to be almost too big a legacy for Tomic to shoulder alone. The affable and talented Ebden will face increased expectation when he returns to Melbourne, but I’m sure many down under are hoping he’ll be able to use his run in Shanghai to not only fuel him to bigger success at his home Slam but for the rest of 2012.