DANDENONG'S Marinko Matosevic is moving towards the top end of professional tennis and his first-round exit from the Australian Open last week showed just how close he is to the best players in the world.
The 27 year old lost to number 12 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 but the score did not show just how close the match was, particularly in the first two sets with Matosevic holding multiple break points at 4-3 in each set.
But each time he had the break in sight, Matosevic couldn't find the winner he needed, with Cilic able to escape and then execute his own winners to claim both sets. The Australian fell behind quickly in the third set with Cilic powering to the finish.
The most disappointing statistic was Matosevic missing all 11 of his chances to win break points in the match as Cilic converted four of his 10 break opportunities.
The world number 48 was "gutted" post game as the Open exit followed first-round exits to top players in lead-up tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney.
"It was very frustrating out there — I feel like I should have been two sets up," he said.
"I was 4-3 with two break points, I had two different break points in both first sets, I had break points at the start of the third and I had a set point in the second [set] in that rally.
"I can't believe I'm off the court in straight sets — I'm gutted."
Matosevic was clearly despondent in the later stages of the third set and he admitted his emotions got to him.
"Then suddenly I was two sets and a break down . . . it was very disheartening not being able to get the break points," he said.
"I tried to let it go but you keep thinking 'What if? What if?'
"You know it's just one point but if I got it I would have been serving for the first set.
"Then if I get the point in the second set then I'm two sets up, then if I get that break at the start of the third set then I'm 2-0 up.
"I'm in a state of disbelief, to be honest."
Matosevic will seek guidance from his coach, Josh Eagle, and Australian Davis Cup bosses Pat Rafter and Tony Roche on how to better take his opportunities.
Rafter and Roche watched the majority of Matosevic's match.
"It comes down to a few points here and there, he came up with some big serves and big shots when he needed to," Matosevic said.
"A few times I was in the rally and maybe I could have pulled the trigger a bit earlier, I don't know. I will speak to my coach, my team, Rafter and Roche and see what they all think."
Matosevic was also unable to get past the first round in the men's doubles as he and partner Daniel Gimeno-Traver lost to Australian pair Matthew Barton and John Millman.
Matosevic said he was still confident he could have a good year in 2013 after having little success in Australia last summer before doing well the rest of the year.
"I feel like I played well the whole summer and I haven't got one set to show for it."