Max Purcell: An Australian Tennis Cult Hero Is Born

Australian tennis ace Max Purcell won the hearts of the crowd on Margaret Court Arena, taking World No. 11 Casper Ruud the distance in the Second Round.

Max Purcell: An Australian Tennis Cult Hero Is Born

For all the big-name stars playing at this year’s Australian OpenNovak Djokovic, Alex de Minaur, Carlos Alcaraz – there are a handful of unsung heroes playing their hearts out at the first Grand Slam event of the year… and there’s one Australian star that no one’s talking about.

Chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Oi, Oi, Oi,” rung out of the Margaret Court Arena on the fifth day of the Australian Open. Two players, both boasting two sets each heading into the fifth, were battling it out for a place in the Third Round of this illustrious competition, but there was one star on the baseline who was playing with the crowd on his side.

Sporting his signature flowing blonde mullet and moustache, Max Purcell was putting on a gripping show for the raucous home support.

The 25-year-old started the AO at 45th in the ATP World Ranking, a slight drop from his career-high of 40 towards the end of last year, and was staring at the chance to achieve a career-high finish in the Third Round of his home tournament with just 11th seeded, Casper Ruud, standing in his way.

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But to this point, there hadn’t been much buzz around the young Australian star. You’d think that with the classic Aussie look and evident sporting talent, Max Purcell would be a cult hero heading into Australia’s native tennis Slam.

In Singles, Purcell has never progressed beyond the Second Round, heading out early in the last six Grand Slams he’s entered. On his way up, the Australian ace partnered with Australian Open dark horse, Alex de Minaur, when the pair were in their teens and have continued on their upward trajectory to the highest peaks in the game; Alex de Minaur even broke into the ATP Top 10 ahead of this year’s Slam.

Despite never making it past the Second Round, Purcell’s quality is there for all to see.

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Purcell started the Australian Open with a nervy start against qualifier Mate Valkusz; the Hungarian returner came out swinging during the pair’s First Round bout, breaking the enthusiastic Aussie star on several occasions to take control of the game. Purcell then found his form, breaking Valkusz in the second set to close out the opening tie.

“I feel like if I stay calm enough after getting broken, I feel like I always get rewarded with another break back,” Purcell said. “Obviously it was disappointing to not hold there and then be two games away from winning, but it is what it is. Just be calm and you’ll get rewarded.”

Max Purcell’s second match was hardly a walk in the park either, battling with former World No. 2 Casper Ruud for a place in the Third Round. In the opening set, Ruud’s experience showed, but Purcell wasn’t exactly going to make it easy for him.

“There’s only one area of this match that I think Casper Ruud is comfortable in, and that’s the scoreboard.”

Former American tennis star Jim Courier

Max Purcell ripped the second set from the favourite; with the crowd on his side, the young Australian threatened to break on more than one occasion and joined a long list of Australian stars giving the seeded players something to think about.

Purcell gave it everything in the fifth, forcing Ruud all over the court with a variety of high-quality serves to take it to 6-6 and a tie-break. The pair were defiant in the tie-break, trading blows and delivering outstanding performances. But in the end, Ruud’s quality showed and took the match with 10-7 at the last.

Although Purcell didn’t make it through on this occasion, chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” continued to ring out and Australian tennis fans stood up to applaud their next cult hero on the rise.