At the start of 2023, Max Purcell was ranked at number 220 on the men’s singles tour and was seemingly worlds away from where he hoped he would have been after coming through the ranks as a promising junior.
The 25-year-old Australian made his tour level debut in 2016 as a teenager and was ranked at number 762 in the world, up inside the top 300 by the end of 2017.
To start off 2024, Purcell has now climbed into the top 50 and continues to improve. His progression was clear to see and it was expected that he would go from strength to strength, developing a love for the doubles format.
He always had a love affair with doubles and what it brings to the game.
“I think it’s really different. There’s more variety and everything’s a bit quicker,” Purcell said.
“I enjoy watching doubles for that net aspect so much more than singles.”
Purcell’s rise is on the back of old school tactics, with his serve and volley, and slice among the main strengths of his game. You rarely see the modern singles player employ any of these elements or even be able to volley in any capacity these days.
His game style and long-flowing blonde hair makes you feel like you have gone back in time, watching how the game was played through the 1970s and 80s. Australian great John Newcombe spoke very highly of the trailblazing Aussie in December last year.
“I like the way Max plays,” he said.
“I think playing Davis Cup has been very good for him. It gives you the confidence to be out there in an international arena and having Lleyton (Hewitt) there on the side of the court.”
“It’s great to see him branch out into singles. He’s got the game that keeps his opponents off guard, so there’s no reason why he couldn’t be up around the top 20 at the end of next year.”
Purcell is a well-accomplished doubles player, having won the Wimbledon men’s doubles title in 2022 with fellow Australian Matthew Ebden, as well as being a two-time runner up at Melbourne Park.
He then decided to split from Ebden as his doubles partner in early 2023 to focus on his singles career, playing the sort of tennis that has made fans sit up and take notice of his dynamic and unorthodox game style.
And the 25-year-old did so again recently at the Australian Open. Following a breakthrough debut main draw singles victory in Melbourne against Máté Valkusz, Purcell faced the imposing task of taking on the 11th seeded Casper Ruud.
Despite the challenge, Purcell backed in his game all the way and pushed the Norwegian to his absolute limit. Showcasing a wonderful serve paired with masterful volleying skills and hands throughout the match, the Australian eventually succumbed in a marathon five-set classic.
3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 with the match being decided 10 points to seven in the match tiebreak.
Purcell may have lost, but he put his fellow competitors on notice with the damage he can do against some of the world’s best. He showed incredible fighting quality and an ability to match it with the top players, set for a bright future in the game.
“I can play ball with the big dogs and not only that, but bringing a completely different game style to rattle them,” Purcell said.