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PURCELL MOVES INTO LAST 64 AS WILDCARDS GADECKI AND MCCABE EXIT



Australia’s second-ranked Aussie survived an early scare as Max Purcell rallied back from one set down to defeat Hungarian qualifier Máté Valkusz to hand the Aussies their first win of day 3 action.


Aiming to progress past the first round of the Australian Open for the first time, a matchup against a player ranked outside the top 200 presented an ideal scenario to break that duck.


Valkusz, 25, put in the hard yards last week at Melbourne Park to win three gruelling matches en route to the main draw, and that match sharpness was evident as he raced out to a 4-1 lead in the opener.


The Australian world number 42 had no answers to return his opponent’s booming serve, before hanging on tight in the second set to even the match in a clutch tiebreak.


It became clear that Purcell was settling into the match from that point on, utilising his doubles experience to approach the net and dispatch easy serve and volley points to take a two sets to one lead.


Up a double break in the fourth, the Aussie made it anything but effortless to somehow lose two consecutive service games, including six match points that evaporated in the blink of an eye. Fans pulled out their phones to record the inevitable which suddenly turned into uncertainty.


A vocal Purcell revved up the home support which helped him not only salvage back the break but also restore much-needed confidence in a moment that could have quickly turned south.


At the seventh time of asking, Purcell prevailed 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-5 where he will face 11th seed Casper Ruud in the next round.


Speaking to the press after the match, the 25-year-old explained how he regrouped and regained his composure.


“I guess I feel like if I stay calm enough after getting broken, I feel like I always get rewarded with another break back,” said Purcell.


“Obviously it was disappointing to not hold there, then have to be two games away again from winning. I was like: ‘All right, it is what it is. Just be calm and you'll get rewarded.’ And I did. He played a shocking game to give me the break again and I then got to serve with new balls.”


Earlier on Tuesday, young Australian wildcards Olivia Gadecki and James McCabe both bowed out of the event in the opening round.


Commencing play on John Cain Arena, 21-year-old Olivia Gadecki raced to a 2-0 lead over 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, winning the first eight points of the match.


However, it was all one-way traffic from there as the American reeled off twelve of the next fourteen games to earn herself a comfortable 6-3, 6-1 victory.


First up on Court 3, James McCabe contested his maiden main draw match at Grand Slam level, battling American rising star Alex Michelsen.


20-year-old McCabe, who grew up in Sydney and is still coached by his father, was competitive through two sets, before the world number 92 lifted, to ease into the round of

64.


After dropping the opening set tiebreak from a 5-2 lead, the Aussie reset to find a crucial break in the second and level the encounter at a set a piece.


Ultimately, McCabe’s inability to win points behind his second serve at just 40%, and Michelsen’s conversion of six out of eight break point chances, resulted in a 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1,

6-2 defeat.

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