Australia’s Matthew Ebden is one win away from his third grand slam title after surging into the Australian Open men’s doubles final with Indian veteran Rohan Bopanna, who is being lauded for an honest act of sportsmanship during the deciding third set.
The second seeds came out on top in their semi-final against Zhang Zhizhen and Tomas Machac on Thursday, winning 6-3 3-6 7-6 (10-7).
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And they did it the right way, it cannot be denied, after Bopanna called himself out for an infringement at the net in the first point of seventh game in the third set.
Standing at the net during an Ebden service game, Bopanna hit two volleys in a row to have the Australian-Indian pair in good shape to win the point, but took it upon himself to end it when he knew he had touched the net when reaching over to hit the second volley.
So subtle was the touch on the net, a moment of confusion from players and fans — who assumed the ball was still live — had to be clarified by the chair umpire, who explained what happened.
“It must have been the faintest of touches,” South African commentator Rob Koenig said.
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The match quickly moved on and it was soon forgotten by most — but not tennis journalist Damian Kust, who gave Bopanna his due credit.
“Shoutout to Bopanna for the sportsmanship — he once again conceded the point, realising he touched the net on a volley when no one else on the court came any(where) close to noticing it,” Kust said when it happened.
Bopanna made contact with the net and he admitted it. Credit: Stan Sport
Despite conceding the point, Ebden and Bopanna still went on to win the match and, in doing so, will become the oldest No.1 pairing in tennis history at the end of the tournament with the Indian aged 43 and Ebden 36.
It didn’t all go to plan though; they were cruising at 4-1 up in the third before their Chinese-Czech opponents forced the contest to a match tiebreak.
But ‘The Big Bopper’ calmly served out the match, prompting Bopanna to chest bump with Ebden.
“What an epic third set,” Ebden said.
“I’ve just got to hand it to my partner. We’ve been fighting since Round 1; a lot of tough moments, fighting through one-by-one.
“I’m proud of my partner. We’ve been working hard for over a year now together, so one more match to fight through.”
The pair will meet Italians Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori in the final after they defeated German duo Dominik Koepffer and Yannick Hanfmann in their semi-final 6-3 3-6 7-6 (10-5).
Matthew Ebden has a third major title in sight after a semi-final win with Indian Rohan Bopanna. Credit: AAP
It is the third-straight year an Australian has featured in a men’s doubles decider at Melbourne Park.
Ebden and Max Purcell lost the all-Aussie final in 2022 when countrymen Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis famously “jumped off the couch” to claim their maiden major title.
And Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata won last year’s title but fell in three sets in the second round of this tournament.
Ebden won Wimbledon alongside Sydneysider Purcell in 2022 and picked up the Australian Open mixed doubles with compatriot Jarmila Gajdosova back in 2013.
– With AAP