‘Played like a top-tenner’: Great gushes over Aussie Purcell’s heroic effort after epic five-set loss to 11th seed
Max Purcell’s old-school style has won the much-improved Australian plenty of new admirers after he stretched No.11 seed Casper Ruud to five tough sets in a gallant second-round loss at the Australian Open.
The 25-year-old saved a match point in the 10th game of the final set and sent the contest into a deciding tiebreaker.
But it was the experienced Norwegian who hung on to win 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (10-7) in a high-quality encounter on Thursday lasting three hours and 50 minutes.
It was a third heartbreaking loss by a local man to a higher-ranked opponent in the space of 24 hours after Alexei Popyrin and Jordan Thompson came up just short against Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas respectively on Wednesday night.
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.
His outstanding performance against the 11th seed won a well-deserved ovation from the Margaret Court Arena crowd which had spent the entire afternoon cheering him on, while former great Jim Courier was in awe of Purcell’s ‘old-school, classic’ tennis.
“A 45th-ranked player in the world played like a top tenner out there. There was all kinds of disruption coming Casper Ruud’s way,” Courier said on Nine.
“There were 101 net approaches in that match from Max Purcell. That was old-school, classic tennis and it would have scared the daylights out of Casper Ruud.
“I tell you what, we might not see too many matches with higher consistent quality in this tournament than that. That was incredible. That is not hyperbolic.
“You look at winners to unforced errors, the service percentage, the style of play, it had just about everything.”
Ruud was full of praise for Purcell.
“Max is such a tricky and good player,” he said.
“He’s taken his tennis to a new level in the past year and it’s been fun to watch.
“I grew up playing juniors with him, so I know him very well.
“I wish him the best of success in the year to come because if he keeps playing like this, he will have good chances to get good results this year.”
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.
The 2022 Wimbledon doubles champion’s net-rushing style is a throwback to days gone by, a point not lost on Ruud, a claycourt specialist who relies heavily on his groundstrokes.
“He plays fast, you know, serve and volley, and is one of the most kind of 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.”
The 25-year-old Purcell is provisionally slated to climb from world No.45 to 42nd, just three spots below his career-high ranking achieved last August, after winning a main-draw match in Melbourne for the first time.
Courier is expecting big things of the Aussie.
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“If he can replicate that and bring his forehand to life the way he did and make that a threat on top of all the other assets that he has, he is going to be problematic for more than just Casper Ruud,” he said.