Last month, Max Purcell arrived for the three-week ATP Challenger swing in India with twin desires — to reboot his singles career and see his beloved Australian Test cricket team perform well in the Indian sub-continent.
By Sunday, the 2022 Wimbledon doubles champion had seen both of his wishes fulfilled. The Challenger title in Pune was his third in as many weeks (after Chennai and Bengaluru), a run that has helped him climb 108 places and debut in the singles top-100 (No. 95). His compatriots on the cricket field have come roaring back with a win in Indore, after two bruising defeats in Nagpur and Delhi.
This fondness for team sports has seemingly aided Purcell’s singles uptick. His love for cricket, a game he played until 14, helped him transition seamlessly to doubles. Success in doubles — one Major crown, two runner-up finishes, one ATP 250 title, 13 Challenger trophies and the 2022 Davis Cup final — kept him afloat financially, gave him a taste of the sport’s biggest stages and kindled the singles fire.
“I’m a big team sports player and kind of upset with myself that I didn’t choose cricket over tennis,” the 24-year-old said, when in Bengaluru. “That’s why I like playing doubles. I like to combine with someone, because tennis is very serious… to take a step back, team-up and laugh it out down there.
“I used a lot of big doubles tournaments to get some training with the top guys and then used that platform for my singles. I’m comfortable playing in front of crowds. Beating Felix [Auger-Aliassime] at Olympics (Tokyo) and [Gael] Monfils in Eastbourne (2021)… I know I can play against big players as well.”
Going forward, Purcell has chosen to focus on singles, but being Australian, he would never say no to doubles. Especially after the triumph at Wimbledon with Matt Ebden which made them the first all-Australian male winners at the grass Major since ‘Woodies’ Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde won in 2000.
“After Wimbledon I told myself that I have got enough of this doubles stuff. I will always be able to play it later. [But] I want to try and keep my doubles ranking inside 70, so that I can play the Grand Slams. I don’t know if I’ll have a regular partner. I’m good to play with anyone and it’s all fun for me.”