Max Purcell (Photo Getty Images)
Always believe it: finally focus 100% on your career, with fewer parties and zero nights with your smartphone. Believe it, even if you’re told you’ll remain in limbo, if anything, a nice “doubles player.” Finally, with this subtle retro game, a little light and with these continuous cuts even on the forehand, in a world of power tennis you think you are going to … Max Purcell is no longer about he has trembled from this limbo. Now the Australian really believes in it, with ever higher and more ambitious goals, because he has understood that his diversity is a strength and that he has many more qualities than many have ever realized in him. The 25-year-old from Sydney is certainly one of the characters of the Cincinnati Masters 1000, finishing in the quarterfinals of such an important individual tournament for the first time in his career and ready to challenge His Majesty Carlos Alcaraz in the afternoon of the States. But this great and well-deserved success is not unique, son of the classic week in which you go across the water in a sporty way and everything works out. Far from it. Purcell is having a sensational 2023remained completely under the radar but if he continues at this pace the Aussie is already a contender for Revelation Player of the Season and/or Player of the Season awards.
A fine doubles player on the Tour for years, Purcell still often continues his career alongside compatriots Jordan Thompson or Marc Polemans (he won the 250 in Houston with Thompson this year), but In 2023 he exploded in singles, rising from 220th to the current 70th overall, but even if he loses to Alcaraz he’s already certain he’ll finish 47th for the first time in the top 50 in the world. A great rise that began after passing the “qualities” at the Australian Open (where he ousted Cecchinato and Arnaldi), with an important decision already made in the 2022 off-season: I will bet on the Challengers in India and give me a few months to push all in single player and see how it goes. Well… it exceeded our wildest expectations! Played three tournaments, three consecutive titles in Chennai, Bengaluru (against Nardi among others) and Punewhere he again defeated Nardi in the final. A great threesome in a row, achieved through great play, dominating the field with fierce attacks, serves and volleys, continuous cuts backwards even with the forehand that completely threw the opponents out of rhythm. His trademark is that he gives you no clues, very little pace, sudden attacks. That fantastic hat-trick got him into the top 100 at #99, and it didn’t stay there. He reached the semi-finals of the Challenger in Las Franqueses de Valles and then the final in Lille, with another best finish of No. 86. Two more CH finals in Korea before landing at Roland Garros.
With his attacking game one would have expected a bit more on grass but he was instantly beaten at 250 in Mallorca (by Feliciano Lopez, in the final dance of his career) and then at Wimbledon he drew poorly, Rublev in the first round. Then he flew to the United States to take part in the big tour there with full force. Difficult start, immediate eliminations in Newport, Atlanta and Washington, with some comments already labeling him a “challenger” tennis player. With the double of the 1000 North Americans, he immediately silenced them. He passed her in Toronto, beat hometown idol Auger-Aliassime and fought three sets against Murray, all the way to the best tournament of his life in Cincy, where he passed them and then defeated Harris, Ruud (seeded #5, best scalp of his career) and yesterday Wawrinka. No wins from “Pirro”, Purcell played very well, he really deserved it.
Get the first Masters QF ✅ in the second Masters appearance
Get the first Top 10 win over Ruud #7 ✅
Next: Alcaraz or Paul! pic.twitter.com/NIA1ntNbdQ
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 17, 2023
Max is a tennis player who is still little known to the general public, but he’s also fun to watch on the court because he differs from the classic forehand hitter who’s the dominant role model on the tour. Endowed with an excellent physique, compact and explosive, he manages to cover the field very well and with the experience gained in doubles he has a very solid base to build his game on serve and return. Very strong and pace-setting rivals manage to send him off, but Purcell has the ideal antidote if you can’t get him to play defensively and lose the place. Is called Variation, tactical intelligence and vision of the moment. With his cuts, he “deflates” opponents’ balls, causing them to strike forward without rhythm and often at odd angles, forcing them to approach or come to the net. In addition, you don’t really expect him to have the forehand in his back, which he uses a lot, and if you don’t attack him quickly, it becomes difficult to get back up and play deep, and this is where the “kangaroo” takes a step forward and suddenly fires It either accelerates or hits the net where it almost certainly finishes. All in all, it’s quite a nut to crack…
Purcell proves there’s plenty of talent down below. The difference comes from small, big things, like the head, the focus, believe in it and work with ambitious goals to go beyond what you – mistakenly – think are your limits. He described it very well in an interview published on the ATP website a few months ago after his breakthrough with the Challengers, where he talks about it and explains how he made the leap in quality.
“How did I manage to win 15 straight games with the Challengers? I chose to avoid distractions off the pitch.”explains Purcell. “Especially these weeks in India I wanted to be as far away from my phone as possible. I wanted to make sure I had more rest and Just make sure I don’t bring anything else onto the pitch during my games. No additional emotions or anything like that. I just wanted to be as calm as possible and focus on my mission to do my best on the pitch. I would say it worked really well and I don’t want to make the mistakes of the past again. Even as I tried to limit distractions last year, I still FaceTimed friends. This consumed my day and sapped my energy because I was too attached to it. If I had to go out to dinner with more tennis players, it was the same again. I tried to limit distractions as much as possible and said to myself, “That’s enough, unplug it.”stay in your room and relax, tomorrow is a game, there is work to be done.”
In 2022, Murray publicly praised Purcell for his special playing style. Max says thank you and continues: “Murray was very nice, but I don’t really see anyone hitting forehand like me.”continues Purcell. “I don’t think there’s a single person who plays like me, so I think it’s quite unique and that can become a strength because you’re not used to facing someone like me. I grew up in Sydney, we had a lot of artificial grass pitches, so I cut a lot when I was younger. I knew I could always slice with the forehand, but the coaches kept telling me it wasn’t effective. Last year I went coachless for a while, so I was like, “Fuck it, I don’t care what the coaches think… I’m going to start with that.” I really believed in it and used it with good results. So why distort my way of being?”
So from now on only singular? No, but the schedule will not be easy, that’s another challenge. “Last year I was burned out… I can’t fully combine two separate programs, single and double programs. In 2022, I competed in a tournament every week for seven and a half months. Looking back, I still feel the tiredness in my legs and head. Sure I’ll still be competing in singles and doubles in the Grand Slams and maybe some 1000m, but let’s see, things are changing fast.”
In less than 8 months, Purcell has gone from one of the many elbowers to the top 50. How important is the head, the focus, the goals in tennis?