STAY realistic, keep healthy and keep working hard — those are the foundations Dandenong tennis star Marinko Matosevic wants to build on in 2013.
The 27 year old had a career year in 2012 moving from a singles ranking outside the top 100 to number 47 in the world before ending the year ranked 49.
The move into the top 50 has allowed Matosevic to gain direct entry to many important tournaments and grand slam events, avoiding the grind of qualifying or wild cards, something Matosevic had long sought to do.
When Matosevic takes the court in the opening round of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park this week he will look to kick start another bumper season.
Matosevic avoided facing a top-10 player but has drawn number 12 seed Marin Cilic in the first round and is expected to face the Croatian tomorrow.
‘‘I think if things go the right way I could make the second week of the tournament, not win it but make it into that second week, which I think is achievable,’’ he said.
He said his successful season in 2012 had made him hungry to stay among the world’s best players.
‘‘The big thing in 2012 is that now I feel comfortable at this level, I feel like I belong,’’ he said.
‘‘Tony Roche, Pat Rafter and John Newcombe all told me I could make the top 50 and I’m happy I proved them right and proved myself right too. It has given me a new perspective on tennis.’’
But Matosevic hasn’t had everything his own way to start 2013, with two tough draws in the Brisbane International and Sydney International, losing to world number 19 Kei Nishikori from Japan and fellow Australian Bernard Tomic in the first round of each tournament.
‘‘’’I haven’t had the best start,’’ Matosevic said. ‘‘Playing Nishikori I was a break up but couldn’t go on with it and I was caught trying to match Tomic in Sydney.
‘‘They are two of the better guys you could play so it has made for two tough matches but it also helps when you are preparing for a grand slam.’’
Matosevic said he wanted to continue his consistent play this year and come through it with his ranking intact.
‘‘The first goal is to stay healthy, I’m sure a lot of guys set that goal,’’ he said.
‘‘I want to stay in the top 50 and go further but it’s tough, to stay around 50 is a more realistic goal but I hope I can go further.’’
Matosevic entered the new year as Australia’s top-ranked male player, although Tomic is hot on his heels.
That ranking left him doing more media and public appearances than he had ever done before.
At first it left Matosevic a little overcome but he has quickly adapted to his new-found fame after many years of anonymity.
‘‘It been a little hectic,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s nice but sometimes when you go from zero to a lot of stuff it becomes time consuming.
‘‘I’ve had to deal with it better and it’s taken a few weeks to get used to.
While his star is rising, Matosevic still spent a few days at his family home in Dandenong last week before moving into his city hotel room ahead of the Open.
‘‘I can’t keep relying on my myki card and the Monash freeway,’’ Matosevic joked.