The night crowd on Rod Laver Arena will have a home favourite to cheer in Matthew Ebden on Wednesday night but the Australian is going to have his work cut out against a former champion in Rafael Nadal. It could be the same on Friday night too with a matchup with Alex de Minaur on the cards should he advance. Melbourne has been Nadal’s least successful stomping ground with just 1 slam title although he has made the final an additional three times, something that is definitely a realistic goal this year too.
Ebden came from a set down to beat Jan Lennard Struff in his opener. Ebden had the best year of his career last year, temporarily breaking into the top 40 for the first time in his career. He also managed a career best slam third round at Wimbledon, something he is yet to achieve in Australia in 7 main draws.
While winning in straight sets, Nadal still had a slightly tougher time in victory against James Duckworth then many will have expected. The wildcard could have given Nadal some discomfort had he held after breaking to stay in the match but could not hold as the match ended 6-4 6-3 7-5. He was pleased with the new service motion he has adapted, not feeling too concerned by the two breaks he gave up. “When you play against a player that he wants to hit all the shots, of course you can have breaks against, because you are sometimes in his hands. But anyway, my serve worked well. I don’t know my percentage, but was a lot of good positions after the first serve. I felt solid with the second.” he said.
The concerns over Nadal’s injured thigh seems to have dissipated after a match with no ill effects. “Good. No, as I said, no, is normal that beginnings are tough, but every day helps and every day makes me feel better, makes me feel more confident.” he said.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets