Sydney, Australia, 7 July 2020 | Vivienne Christie

The signs that 2020 could be a big season for Max Purcell came early. A runner-up at the AO Wildcard Play-off last December, the young Sydneysider subsequently made his way into a first Grand Slam main draw as a qualifier – but it wasn’t merely in singles that Purcell would excel.

After testing fast-rising Jannik Sinner in the first round of singles, a memorable Australian Open fortnight concluded as a men’s doubles finalist alongside his close friend Luke Saville. “Nothing beats the finals of a Grand Slam,” he said. “I think we’re getting better every match.”

Thriving with experience, Purcell also noted the value of discipline. “In the last two or three months I’ve really felt like I’ve lifted a bit,” he related. “I’ve been really taking care of my diet, my fitness, all the one per-centers … I guess it’s all paying off.”

RELATED: Purcell and Saville poised to take the next step

When the international tennis tours were dramatically halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Purcell’s work ethic was equally strong. “I haven’t stopped or had a break yet since coming back from where I was overseas. I’ve just continued training pretty hard the whole way through. I’ve kind of really just taken it like a long pre-season,” he commented last week.

For Purcell, that meant dividing time in recent months between Maroubra and the central coast of New South Wales, where his coach Nathan Healey is based. Intense training sessions with his brother have added to Purcell’s strong fitness base.

“He’s competing in a triathlon later this year, so I’ve been joining him with a lot of his running. I think that’s kind of helped my base level rise a bit,” Purcell explained.

The keen physical focus is accompanied by a sensible approach. Purcell was competing in Mexico when the coronavirus crisis intensified but suffering a back injury, had returned home to Sydney just days before the tour officially shut down in March.

“I think my coach kind of thought we needed to take a break,” he reflected. “Probably not, you know, six months or whatever it’s been … but I mean, it’s nice. Tennis players never get that break to build on things properly.

“I kind of wanted in a way to take time to work on my game after having that big Aussie summer and try and really build on the confidence I had there. So I kind of wanted to get back and get a bit better rather than having these long weeks on the road.”

Purcell was therefore both physically and mentally ready for the resumption of professional tennis at the UTR Pro Tennis Series, where last week he defeated Aleksandar Vukic in the men’s final to claim inaugural honours in Sydney.

RELATED: Perez and Purcell triumph in Sydney

Returning to UTR Pro Tennis Series action at Ken Rosewall Arena tomorrow, Purcell will again call on his disciplined approach. While enjoying time reconnecting with other Australian players, the Sydneysider also recognises the focus that’s required to progress.

“I think I was a little bit too social previously on tour. I’ve been trying to cut down on that and keep things a little more professional,” he said.

As Purcell competes in a men’s field that includes Christopher O’Connell, Rinky Hijikata, Cameron Green, Benard Nkomba, Kody Pearson, Jordan Smith and James McCabe, he’ll take confidence from his victory last week.

But even more valuable for the 22-year-old is knowing that his hard work is paying off. “I think I had a pretty high level with where I thought my training was at, so I was already kind of comfortable with how much work I’d been doing,” he commented.

“But again, the reassurance is really nice – just to know that everything that I’ve been investing in myself has been paying off and it’s nice to see the other guys stepping up a bit as well.

“I think we’re all just eager to get back out on the tour and try and test ourselves.”

The UTR Pro Tennis Series Sydney begins at 9.30am on Wednesday. Matches will be live-streamed via YouTube.