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Ebden surprise singles pick for Cup tie
By Robert Grant
16:27 AEST Thu Jan 31 2013

Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter has sprung a major surprise by naming Matthew Ebden in the singles for Australia's tie against Taiwan starting on Friday.

Ebden, the newly-crowned Australian Open mixed doubles champion, will join Lleyton Hewitt on the first day of the Asia/Oceania Group One tie in Kaohsiung City.

Hewitt will be out to get Australia off to a winning start when he faces Taiwan's No.2 player Tsung-Hua Yang, before Ebden clashes with Taiwanese No.1 Ti Chen.

Hewitt will then team again with Chris Guccione for Saturday's doubles rubber as the pair bid to keep alive their flawless 7-0 Cup winning streak.

Australia has left its options open for Sunday's reverse singles.

South African-born Ebden edged out the higher-ranked Marinko Matosevic due to his confidence, superior practice form and liking for the speedy courts, Rafter said.

"We have been watching all the training and practice matches and Matt's come off the Australian Open with a lot of confidence and he's hitting the ball really well," Rafter said.

"Marinko struggled over that time, he had some really tough draws and, at this stage, he's still struggling to get over the line on the matches.

"This court is also a really good court for Matt - it's quick and really helps his style of game," he said.

"He's got a winning feel and that's what we need right now."

Rafter said Australia remained wary of the Taiwanese, despite their much lower world rankings.

"These guys will come in with no pressure. They're just going to swing away and come out hitting the ball out of the middle," Rafter said.

"It's going to be a really tough assignment for our guys because they are actually really good ball strikers and they will be dangerous.

"They're a lot better than they're ranked."

Rafter said a lot depended on Hewitt winning the opening singles match.

"If he doesn't, we're going to have our backs against the wall with these guys."

Meanwhile, Rafter said Matosevic's attitude was better after he was dropped from a crucial Cup tie last year for disciplinary reasons - but he still needed to improve.

"He has certainly made a big improvement in his attitude but he's still got a way to go though," Rafter said.

"It's something that is constantly there and we are still working with that.

"We are really trying to help him for the future and sometimes it comes across as really hard - but he needs to have some hard love," Rafter said.