Beaten Australian Matthew Ebden was nothing but positive after his heart-breaking loss to Russian Mikhail Youzhny at the Australian Open on Monday.
Ebden held match point during the fourth set of their first-round encounter on Margaret Court Arena, but the Durban-born Perth resident could not take his chance, losing the fourth in a tie-break before Youzhny clinched the decider 6-3.
The result was all too familiar for the 25-year-old, as he coughed up two-sets-to-love leads in consecutive years in Melbourne, following on from his second-round five-set loss to Japan's Kei Nishikori in 2012.
But Ebden refused to lament on wasted opportunities, stating that the reason he reached match point and held such a big advantage, meant he was improving his game.
"I'm very happy with a lot of the improvements I made. I think my physical shape, I'm a lot fitter and stronger than I was. I've had a lot of improvements out there," Ebden said at his post-match press conference.
"My return of service, my backhand… all that's improved a lot. (The improvement) obviously got me to match point… big deal, it's how tennis goes some days.
"He won the point; I didn't. It was a close 7-6 (in the fourth set), one break (of serve) in the fifth. But I'm obviously very happy with the way I'm playing. I'm a lot more confident. I feel I have a much more complete game now than probably the last year."
Ebden created no less than 18 break-point chances against the Russian, but could only convert four.
But he was nonetheless upbeat that he was able to put pressure on such a highly ranked opponent.
"I felt obviously like I was there (close to breaking) a lot of the times, which I guess is a testament to my returning… (there is) big improvement there. At least I'm creating a lot of break points," he said.
"So obviously I'll keep trying to develop that even more, be a little more aggressive with it, or just get my depth a little better so I'm more in the point rather than him hitting shots. Even the match point, I made a good return. It was a decent point."
Ebden's coach Peter McNamara had tipped him to push into the top-50 by season's end, and the player himself agreed that was a reachable target from his current ranking of 108 - he just needs to string together good results.
"A couple months ago I was (world number) 60. They're just numbers. What am I going to be? I'm a hundred-and-something (108) right now," he said.
"(I am) sort of pretty confident. We know the level, who I can beat, where I can belong. Now it's about winning all the matches."