A strong finish to 2013 has West Australian Matthew Ebden excited about his chances leading into the Australian summer circuit.
Ebden won consecutive titles in Japan last month, coming from a set and two breaks down to overcome Go Soeda 2-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 at the Yokohama ATP Challenger and beating Yuichi Sugita 6-3 6-2 a fortnight later at the Dunlop World Challenge.
The 26-year-old bounced back from the disappointment of losing in the first round of qualifying at the US Open, winning 29 of his last 34 matches to improve 66 places in world rankings and finish at No.68.
Seven places down from his career-high mark of 61 in October last year, Ebden said his recent success had been reward for hard work in the first half of the year after a disappointing finish to 2012.
"Last year I finished (ranked) at about 100 so it wasn't my best year," Ebden said.
"The first six months we were just looking at a few different things in my game and how to go about improving my training.
"We spent a lot of time building physically, which may have hurt me early in the year in actual match play, but we knew that things might take six months to get the results we were after.
"That stretched to America and by the time I got to US Open qualies, I had just been doing a heavy training block and I was pretty buggered."
Ebden said that had been a significant turning point.
"I obviously got my results and rewards in the next few months after that," he said.
"I pretty much achieved every goal that I set for the last few months of the year. It turned out that I couldn't actually have asked for much more."
While he wouldn't dwell on it, Ebden said he was confident of eclipsing his best ranking in 2014.
"Obviously last year I hit 61 in the world and I was pretty satisfied with my level, but looking at the things that held me at about 60 rather than pushing up to 30," he said. "It took a little bit of time to put building blocks in place.
"I'm very happy and it's given me an incredible foundation for the next six to nine months to really have a go and further build in this next month and come the New Year on my game."
Ebden will play at the Brisbane and Sydney Internationals in the lead-up to next month's Australian Open, hopeful of defending his mixed doubles crown with Jarmila Gajdosova at the Australian grand slam.
Having already achieved a goal of playing in the Davis Cup where he is unbeaten in five matches, Ebden would like to continue the trend of representing his country at the Hopman Cup.
"If I can have some good results next year and keep building, there's a chance that I could become the No.1 (Australian) player on the rankings and I may get asked to play," he said. DID YOU KNOW? 61 The highest world ranking achieved by West Australian Matthew Ebden