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Hunter and Ebden Storm To Title, Win Inaugural BNP Paribas Open Mixed Doubles Invitational
3 Min Read · March 14, 2024

Matt Ebden and Storm Hunter won the inaugural Mixed Doubles Invitational at the BNP Paribas Open — and the Aussies hope the idea catches on. Currently on the tennis tour, mixed doubles has limited space on the calendar — at the Grand Slams, the Olympics and the United Cup. But Indian Wells staged the mixed event in the second week, offering a total of $150,000 in prize money for eight teams.

Ebden and Hunter beat France’s Caroline Garcia and Edouard Roger Vasselin 6-3, 6-3 in Friday's finale on the main Stadium 1.

“I think it’s great for tennis,” said Ebden. “At the end of these events, when the singles is down to the last few matches, it’s a great filler before and after the matches.

“And some people love seeing the dynamic, the man and the woman playing together. It’s quite a special one and doesn’t happen in nearly any other sport, so it’s something we could build on and hopefully have at all the Masters. Maybe even a mixed doubles rankings one day.”

Ebden lost his opening match in the defense of his men’s doubles title alongside Rohan Bopanna but said he was always going to stick around rather than head to the next tour stop in Miami because he’s due to play in an exhibition this weekend for prostate cancer.

“It’s great for the tournament to make use of us, for some of us who have lost or are still waiting for Miami,” said Ebden, who was hindered by a gastro issue in the days leading up to the desert showpiece.

“It’s a really long, drawn out month just for two tournaments, so to have a mixed event in the middle, it’s just another great addition to, let’s say, the fifth Grand Slam. They even gave us a little mini trophy with ‘mixed doubles champion’ on it.” 

Ebden and Hunter teamed up at the United Cup in late December, then again at the Australian Open. They could very well unite at the rest of the Grand Slams this year and the Olympics at Roland Garros in late July. So getting more match practice was certainly welcomed.

“That was another reason we really wanted to play,” said Hunter. “There’s only limited opportunities to play. So to get just some more match practice, get on the court together, every single match helps you feel more comfortable and know what we’re doing in pressure situations and environments.

“We had a lot of fun. You want to play on the biggest courts in the biggest tournaments. To play on Stadium 1 and have those moments is really special, and moments you kind of remember in your career.”

Ebden, like Hunter a former World No. 1, sizzled against the French duo. Two shots in particular stood out. The 36-year-old struck a diagonal smash after zigzagging, then later in the match threw up a defensive lob as he scrambled all around the court. He ended the point with an acrobatic backhand volley.

“I don’t know how he got to half of those shots,” said Hunter. “A lot of times, I’m in shock.”

Ebden credited his partner for her overall play and also for helping him out earlier in the week. Hunter concluded the contest with a rifled forehand return. She now has her sights on the doubles final Saturday alongside Katerina Siniakova, who also competed in the mixed doubles invitational. They’ll face Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens in a rematch of their high quality Australian Open semifinal, won by Hsieh and Mertens.

“It’s one of the best matches I’ve been involved in,” said the 29-year-old lefty. “It always sucks to lose that one, so we’re definitely out for revenge, but they’re a really good team. It’s gonna be tough. We’re gonna have to earn it.”

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