‘I’m proud of Bernie. He could’ve easily tanked it’
MATTHEW Ebden has gone in to bat for doubles partner Bernard Tomic, saying he was "proud" of the way his friend performed in qualifying and understands how hard it is to come back from a rankings slide.
Ebden said he had not spoken to Tomic since the 25-year-old lost his third-round qualifier on Sunday to be an absentee in the Australian Open main draw for the first time since 2008.
However, Ebden said Tomic had showed "good signs" during qualifying, suggesting that he was willing to put in the work to return to the top of his game.
"He could have easily come out in the first round and gone, 'This is too hard' and tanked the match but he didn't," Ebden said.
"I'm kind of proud of him for putting himself on the line. It's not easy, especially once you've been a top-20 player or had those sort of accolades. It's not easy to go out and play guys that rank 250 in the world, 200 in the world and are busting their gut to beat you.
"Even though he lost I think to get through those couple of matches, even to almost get through that third match, if he can just keep doing that for the next six to 12 months I think that will bode him well. Whether he wants to or not is up to him."
Tomic has slid to No.143 in the world rankings since reaching a career high of 16 this time two years ago.
Ebden has similarly had to fight his way back from a rankings slide, climbing back from No.699 after a knee injury ruined his 2016 season to return to the top 100 last year.
"I know what it's like to be out and have to work your way back in," Ebden said.
"It's challenging, it's really frustrating, it's hard, but it can also be very rewarding if you're willing to go through all that.
"First and foremost he's got to make sure he's enjoying it and wants to play. If he doesn't want to then that's fine. No one says he has to. Every time I've been out I've wanted to come back and do better."