Max Purcell
Max Purcell went within a whisker of what would have been a career-best win at the Australian Open. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Purcell pushes Ruud to the brink at Australian Open

John Salvado January 18, 2024

Proud to have pushed No.11 seed Casper Ruud to the brink at Melbourne Park with his retro brand of net-rushing tennis, Max Purcell says Australia’s generation next are inspiring each other to the next level.

With a mop of curly blond hair and matching moustache, Purcell has the looks to go with his throwback serve-volleying style.

He made life very difficult for Norwegian claycourt specialist Ruud in the second round on Thursday, only to come up just short 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (10-7) in a high-quality Australian Open second-round encounter.

Purcell
 Max Purcell would not look out of place in the 1980s. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

“I do play a game that can kind of trouble anyone,” said Purcell.

“In saying that, there are obviously still some lower-ranked guys that beat me.

“I’ve just got that kind of game style that disrupts rhythm.

“Anyone on an off day is going to struggle against me.”

The late-blooming Purcell and Ruud, both aged 25, have been squaring off since the age of 12 and the Norwegian was full of praise for what the Australian brings to the table.

“He plays fast, you know, serve and volley, and is one of the most unorthodox players these days,” said Ruud.

“It brings it back a little more to the ’90s and ’80s with serve and volley.

“And that’s tough you know, I’m not used to playing players like this.

“He made it really hard for me.”

Casper Ruud
 Casper Ruud was full of praise for his vanquished opponent Max Purcell. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

As well as he played on Thursday, Purcell still joined the likes of countrymen Alexei Popyrin, Jordan Thompson, Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler, who have come up just short against much higher-ranked opponents in the first five days at Melbourne Park.

“We’re all just kind of finally where we want to be in our careers, top 100, playing in the big tournaments,” said Purcell, who is provisionally slated to climb from world No.45 to 42nd, just two spots below his career-high ranking achieved last August.

“Now we have a little bit more freedom with schedule and with coaches, with physios and all that.

“In saying that, everyone is then pushing to be ranked higher than the other one. Everyone is playing good ball.

“That’s part of the reason why I think I’ve done well is because all these other guys have started to do well.

“Everyone’s had a few heartbreaks this week against some good players but, man, that’s tennis.

“Everyone gets unlucky. Everyone gets luck somewhere else throughout the season. That’s just how it goes.”

Despite his exit, Purcell’s consolation – as well as a $180,000 pay day – is a rise to Australian No.2 status – unless Thanasi Kokkinakis makes the semi-finals.

Purcell was unable to convert any of the 11 break-point opportunities he created in the opening three sets, with Ruud successfully landing his first serve every time.

But the Australian stayed in the contest after claiming the second-set tiebreaker.

Purcell finally broke Ruud’s serve for the first time in the second game of the fourth set and held his nerve to send the match into the decider.