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Aussie Matt Ebden misses out in US Open doubles final


Australian veteran Matt Ebden's dream of winning a third grand slam title has been scuppered in a US Open men's doubles final that will always be remembered for a splendid act of sportsmanship from his partner Rohan Bopanna.

Ebden, a victor in the Wimbledon men's doubles final last year and an Australian Open mixed doubles champ 10 years ago, was beaten alongside India's Bopanna by the Anglo-American combination of Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram 2-6 6-3 6-4 in Friday's final at New York's Flushing Meadows.

A tight contest could have swung decisively towards Salisbury and Ram, who became the first team to win the Flushing Meadows title three years in a row in the Open era, when Bopanna gifted his opponents a key point at 4-2 down in the final set.

Perth's Ebden had hit what looked to everyone in Arthur Ashe Stadium like a forehand winner but the 43-year-old Bopanna admitted to the umpire, who had not realised, the ball had actually just fractionally brushed his arm before it flew over the net.

The veteran's refreshing honesty allowed his opponents to move into a 0-30 lead at a crucial moment, and their chances were soon gone as 31-year-old Salisbury and 39-year-old Ram went on to take the title.

"That act of sportsmanship on the court, we've been playing the better part of 20 years and I've never seen anything like that, especially at a time like that," said Ram, applauding the Indian.

"We'd have had no idea (that it hit him). Bops, you're an inspiration."

Ebden, who also hailed his partner, added: "The only one in the stadium who saw it hit you was me because I was right behind you, so I saw it deviate off you slightly."

Bopanna explained: "That's the person I have been through my career, and I really feel if something was not right, it was not right. It doesn't matter what the scoreline is or what the occasion of the match is.

"Straight away I went and told the referee that the ball had touched. I think she was confused too at what was happening."

But Bopanna was denied the chance to become the oldest men's doubles winner of the Open era after he and 35-year-old Ebden, who also missed out on becoming the first Australian to win a US Open men's doubles title since Todd Woodbridge in 2003, had looked in control while taking the opening set.

The 2010 US Open doubles champ Bopanna had teamed up with Ebden at the start of the year in a successful partnership which should see them make the end-of-season ATP finals in Turin.

"He beat me here at US Open in 2018, so then I thought we should partner up," Ebden had joked after their semi-final win.

"We decided to have a crack, go for it, build a partnership, and we've really enjoyed it."

Ram and Salisbury are the first men's doubles team to win three straight US Open men's doubles crowns in 109 years since Americans Tom Bundy and Maurice McLoughlin achieved the feat between 1912 and 1914.