Matt Ebden, a local player, and Rohan Bopanna, a seasoned player, have secured a spot in the men’s doubles final at the Australian Open. This was achieved after defeating Tomas Machac and Zhang Zhizhen on Thursday.
The duo from India and Australia won the match after three sets, with a final score of 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (10-7), after playing for two hours and two minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
For the third consecutive year, an Australian player will participate in the men’s doubles final at Melbourne Park. However, Ebden acknowledged that this semi-final was extremely tight.
“What an epic third set and I’ve just got to hand it to my partner, we’ve been fighting since round one, a lot of tough moments – fighting through one by one in front of our home crowd – so we couldn’t be happier.”
Unfortunately, the journey of Melbourne resident Storm Hunter in the women’s doubles event ended in the semi-finals when she and her new partner Kateřina Siniaková were defeated by second seeds Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-wei in a close match of 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.
The outcome indicates that Hunter will lose the top ranking by the end of the tournament to either her former partner, Mertens, or Canadian player Gabriela Dabrowski, who will be competing in the other semi-final on Friday.
Ebden and his partner, who is 43 years old, had to win a 10-point tiebreak in the final set to defeat Zhang, a powerful player ranked 54th in singles, and Machac, a skilled player who made it to the third round in singles at Melbourne Park.
Ebden and Bopanna have achieved the title of becoming the oldest man to attain the world doubles No 1 ranking this week. Throughout their journey to the final, they have been victorious in all six tiebreaks they have participated in.
The individual from India stated that the practice and familiarity gained from playing as a team helps them stay focused on crucial aspects. Bopanna, serving at 8-7 in the final tiebreak, successfully executed two strong serves down the center, with a 204km/h ace securing the match point.
“We had to make sure we hit our serves on the spots,” he said. “Playing those matches together, and this partnership together, I think got us through those tiebreaks.”
On Thursday afternoon, the Italian duo of Andrea Vavassori and Simone Bolelli defeated the German team of Yannick Hanfmann and Dominik Koepfer in the semi-final match with a score of 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (10-5). This sets them up to face their opponents in the final.
Bopanna and Ebden entered the match as the second-ranked team and had secured the top two spots in the world doubles rankings by reaching the semi-finals.
The unseeded Czech-Chinese opponents were initially outplayed. The crowd favorites had won one set and had yet to allow their opponents a chance to break when a brief rain delay occurred and the roof was closed.
Shortly after play resumed, they were defeated in the fourth game of the second set. Zhang and Machac only dropped six points on their serves for the rest of the set, allowing them to regain momentum in the match.
The duo from India and Australia regained their composure and quickly gained an advantage in the third set. Despite a strong effort from their skilled opponents, a tiebreak was necessary to determine the winner, but Bopanna’s impressive performance in the end secured their triumph.
The win continues the strong recent showings by local players in the doubles draw. Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis beat Ebden and Max Purcell in the 2022 final. Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler won the title last year.
Bopanna has officially claimed the top spot in doubles rankings after winning the quarter-final. He and Ebden will have equal points at the end of the tournament, but Ebden has participated in three additional tournaments during the ranking period, solidifying Bopanna as the undisputed leader.
Next week, the Indian will become the oldest man to hold the top spot in doubles rankings.
The victory in the semi-final ensures a prize of $400,000, which will be divided between the two competitors. The winning team in the final will split a cash prize of $730,000.