Smith v Purcell in AO Play-off final
After coming through their semifinals in straight sets on Friday, Max Purcell and John-Patrick Smith will go head-to-head for an Australian Open main draw wildcard.
John-Patrick Smith will appear in his third Australian Open Play-off final in six years after brushing aside Maverick Banes in the semifinals on Friday.
There he will meet Max Purcell, who eased to a 7-6(3) 6-2 6-3 win over No.1 seed Alex Bolt in the day’s first semifinal.
Those matches followed on from the women’s doubles Play-off final, won by Alexandra Bozovic and Amber Marshall.
Bozovic and Marshall beat Gabriella Da Silva Fick and Olivia Tjandramulia 6-2 6-3 to earn a wildcard into the doubles main draw at Australian Open 2020.
Smith’s 6-2 6-1 6-3 win over Maverick Banes at Melbourne Park came after victories earlier in the tournament over Brandon Walkin and fourth seed Aleksandar Vukic.
He fell in the AO2017 Play-off final to Omar Jasika, and the AO2015 final to Jordan Thompson — a brutal match finishing at 9-7 in the fifth set.
“This is my third time … they all just run together now,” he laughed when speaking with tennis.com.au.
“It’d be huge (to reach the main draw). But I don’t want to think about that now. Just gotta get back and take care of the body, rest up and get ready for the next match.
“I’d love to (play) here (in January). Just a prime place to play, I love playing here. I’ve played the qualies a lot of times. I’d love to get a chance to have a round in the main here.”
Smith, 30, has nine years’ experience over the 21-year-old Purcell, who has not dropped a set this week at Melbourne Park.
“I haven’t seen much (of Max), but obviously he’s playing well if he hasn’t dropped a set. He beat Bolt pretty convincingly today,” Smith said.
“(Today is) probably the best I’ve played since the tournament started. I played some good tennis out there and hopefully I can do it on Sunday as well — it’s going to be a tough match.”
Purcell entered the tournament after an impressive 2019 season that saw him shave 60 spots off his ranking and move to within striking distance of the top 200.
“I took a couple of weeks off tournaments to finish the year instead of playing out the full year I took some time to train a bit more. I’ve been doing so much extra work in the gym, just running, longer time on court,” said Purcell of training for five-set tennis — a format he has played little of in his young career.
“That’s been a little bit of the difference (this week). And also just not wasting energy out there is huge. I’ve been conserving my energy really well and just kind of switching on and switching off. I’ve played three sets (in all my matches) and I still feel like I could play again, so that’s really confidence boosting.
“I feel I’m moving forward well, I’m volleying well, I’m applying a lot of pressure and then I can also play from the back and defend when I need to. So I feel like maybe players are struggling to know how to play me.
“I’m just feeling really well with the ball on the strings right now, and I feel I can do a lot with it.”
Purcell is yet to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam event; he has played in qualifying draws at major tournaments six times, with his best result reaching the second round of the US Open in 2018.
“It would be huge — especially in Australia, to play here. It’s your home Slam, you get all the crowd behind you. So main draw, five sets, I’m really looking forward to (the opportunity to play for that),” Purcell said.
“I’ve played (Smith) once before, I spent a lot of time on the road with him. JP’s a funny guy. He’s kind of crafty like me a bit. I think there’ll be a lot of serve-volleying, a lot of coming to the net in our match. I was hoping they’d go a little bit longer (in their semifinal) just tiring them out a little bit (smiling).
“But I’m fresh, he’s going to be fresh. It should be a really competitive match.”