Australian Max Purcell went on a three-week trip to India in February with two things in mind: win matches on the ATP Challenger Tour and spend less time on his cell phone.
The 24-year-old went on a 15-match winning streak, triumphing over Chennai, Bengaluru, and Pune Challengers. While he was enjoying a hot streak that helped him make his Top 100 debut, his phone was left cold in the hotel room.
“I made the decision to stop distractions off the court,” Purcell told ATPTour.com. “Especially through India, I like to turn off my phone as much as I can. I want to make sure I get as much quiet time as possible and make sure I go to my matches without anything else on me in court.
“There are no extra emotions or anything like that. I just want to be as calm as I can and focus on my mission. That seems really good.”
Purcell took that decision on his own this offseason, following a grueling 2022 schedule that saw him consistently manage singles and doubles.
“Even when I was trying to get downtime last year, I would still find myself talking to friends on FaceTime, it would just eat up my day and eat up my energy,” Purcell said. “If I go to dinner with more tennis guys, again it’s the same thing. I try to limit that as much as I can in India. I’m like, ‘I’ll put my phone down, stay inside, and rest.’”
Purcell is the 14th player to claim three consecutive Challenger titles and the first since Ben Shelton last season (Charlottesville, Knoxville, Champaign). The Sydney native is the only Australian to achieve the feat in Challenger history (since 1978).
Max Purcell was crowned champion at the 2023 Bengaluru Challenger. Credit: Bengaluru Open
However, the swing did not start positively. Purcell suffered food poisoning leading up to the Chennai Challenger and was confined to his hotel room for several days.
“The first one was a big surprise because I was a little short coming into the tournament. The three days leading into the event, I didn’t practice because of food poisoning,” Purcell said. “I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and after Thursday night I was throwing up. I am a projectile. I didn’t expect too much. And by the end of the week I was so tired. I was happy that I won.
“The second week [Bengaluru], I got through two three setters early. And from then on, I was like, ‘It’s like I’m invincible at this point!’ The last week [Pune]I lost the first set [in the first round]it’s like I’m just getting used to the conditions and [Mukund Sasikumar] well played that set. That set was over, then I felt like I was cruising for the rest of the tournament. So I got better as the tournaments went on, more confident.”
Purcell is No. 203 just three weeks ago, but after his Indian hat-trick he is at a career-high 95 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, cracking the Top 100 is something the Aussie said he hopes to achieve before he becomes 25 The five-time Challenger Tour titlist celebrates his 25th birthday next month.
Purcell’s slice-and-dice brand of tennis isn’t something you see on Tour every day. In 2022, Andy Murray praised the Aussie after rallying from a set down to beat him in Newport. After the match, Murray said that Purcell was bringing, “A unique style of play, using a lot of cuts on both sides”.
Purcell takes pride in his playing style.
“I don’t see anybody hitting the forehand like me,” Purcell said. “I don’t think there’s a single person, so I think it’s a bit strange. I grew up in Sydney, we had a lot of synthetic grass courts so I used my slice a lot when I was younger. I know I can always hit forehand slices but the coaches always tell me it’s not effective.
“Last year, I was coachless for a while so I was like ‘Screw it’, I don’t care what the coaches think, I’m just going to start doing it. That was used and it is being used for a great change.
“I played with Andy in Newport, I don’t know how he feels but physically I don’t play straight after flying from Wimbledon. The man became No. 1 in the world and I got him 6-1, 2-0 and I don’t think I hit a topspin forehand. I think that shows that it is quite effective. I just have a little extra feeling there. I don’t think you see many singles guys volleying as well as I do, from all the doubles.”
A week before Newport, Purcell came off a dream run at Wimbledon, where he partnered with compatriot Matthew Ebden to win their first Grand Slam doubles title. Five of their six matches went the distance, including their last victory over Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
“Five matches are five sets. Eight match points were saved,” Purcell said. “Three match points were saved in a row in the first round. I was looking at my girlfriend and another friend when we were down to those three match points and I just remember looking at them like, ‘Well this is going to be a short trip.’
“Every game we lose and we’re like, ‘Okay, we’re going out of here tonight.’ But we just won the tournament. This is the strangest ending. Weird run the whole way. We never looked like winning it until the super tie-break in the final. It’s peanuts. It just goes to show that tennis is a stupid sport with results how anything can happen all the time.
Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden celebrate winning the 2022 Wimbledon doubles title. Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Despite her great success in the doubles, Purcell said she is focused on playing singles but still hopes to play both at the Grand Slams.
“Last year I burned myself out,” Purcell said. “I cannot play two separate schedules. I did seven-and-a-half months in a tournament every other week last year. I feel like I’ve overcome that mentally and physically.”
Now enjoying significant downtime at home, Purcell will next play for Las Franquesas Del Valles and Lille Challengers.
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