Max Purcell has come a long way in the last two years.
Languishing between 200 and 250 in 2021, the Aussie’s singles ranking left much to be desired.
Following his quarterfinal run at the ATP 250 tournament at Winston-Salem, leading into the US Open Purcell’s singles ranking shot up to a career-high world No. 43. Despite a first round loss to fellow Aussie Chris O'Connell in New York, the 25 year old's ranking remains at 43 post the final major of the year.
It all began in February this year.
After claiming a trio of ATP Challenger titles in India, winning 300 points in total, Purcell shot up the rankings 100 spots to get himself inside the top 100.
This gave him automatic entry into Roland Garros and Wimbledon. While he didn’t make it past the second and first rounds respectively, he still gained valuable grand slam experience.
Max didn’t stop there, as he continued to gather momentum with a rich vein of form.
Prior to the U.S. Open, the 25-year-old won 11 of his past 14 matches, beating solid players from the likes of Stan Wawrinka, the in-form Dutchman, Tallon Griekspoor and the slightly out-of-sorts Canadian, Felix Auger-Alliasime.
Purcell also got his first top-10 win over three-time grand slam finalist, Casper Ruud in Cincinnati on his run to the quarter-finals for the first time ever at Masters 1000 level.
He even pushed world number 1, Carlos Alcaraz, to three sets at Cincinnati, in what is arguably his most impressive singles performance to date.
Even more impressive is that this is the ninth time this season that Purcell has achieved a new career-best ranking and marks the first time since 2017 that his singles ranking is higher than his doubles.
He’s also the only Aussie man currently inside the top 50 for both singles and doubles.
While there are three other Aussie men (Alex De Minaur, Alexei Popyrin, and Aleksander Vukic) inside the top 50 all having terrific years, none has risen so rapidly as Purcell.
To many, Purcell’s meteoric rise up the singles rankings may be a surprise, but not to two former mentors.
Former Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Peter Luczak, (who was in Alex De Minaur’s coaching team until Wimbledon), predicted Purcell’s rise to the top 50. He told the First Serve back in March that there’s no reason “why he (Max) can’t finish the year top 50.”
Lleyton Hewitt’s former coach, Nathan Healey, who was working with Max Purcell in 2021, went one step further, telling the First Serve he thought Purcell could be a top 20 player.
So what does Super Maxi credit his recent success to?
Well, it comes down to two factors.
Firstly, after cracking the top 100 earlier this year, Purcell said he was spending less time on his phone to “stop with distractions off the court”.
Secondly, the Aussie said he planned to focus on singles this year, hoping to still play both singles and doubles at the Grand Slams.
Clearly, playing a bunch of Challenger events helped propel Purcell up the rankings, but he backed this up in the U.S. hardcourt swing with solid performances at ATP level.
The one question mark, however, is still grand slams, having never made it past the second round at a major. Having said that, 2023 is the first year Max has made the main draw of all four majors. More grand slam experience can only be a good thing for the 25-year-old, then.
No doubt being top 50 in the world will give the Aussie hope he can compete with the best. He’s certainly proven that with his current form.
Another benefit of being ranked well inside the top 50, as well as gaining automatic entry to the grand slams, is that Purcell’s draws will start to open up. As his ranking improves, he won’t be pitted against top seeds in the early rounds, so he can really get his teeth stuck into the tournament.
Outside of his tennis attributes, Purcell is easy to like.
With his unique hairstyle and quirky sense of humour (check out his Instagram posts), Purcell is a breath of fresh air on the tour.
He is also fun to watch, with a preference to come forward and volley, in stark contrast to the vast majority of players who stick to the baseline like glue.
His 2023 journey has been one of the most fascinating (and inspiring) to watch this year. Here’s hoping Super Maxi can finish the year strong and continue his amazing run into 2024. First port of call is Davis Cup duties this week, where he is part of the team in Manchester as Australia look to qualify from the Group Stage for the finals in November.