Purcell reaches first ATP final to end Billy Harris’ fairy-tale run at Eastbourne

Max Purcell edged out Billy Harris 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. He’ll play the winner of the match between Taylor Fritz, the top seed, and Aleksandar Vukic in the final

Billy Harris, Eastbourne, 2024 Billy Harris, Eastbourne, 2024 © Action Plus / Panoramic
Rothesay International Eastbourne •Semi-final • completed
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Billy Harris’ remarkable run at the Rothesay International came to an end in the semi-finals as he narrowly lost out to Australia’s Max Purcell 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Purcell has reached his first tour-level final, in what is an equally impressive run from the world No 94, beating the likes of Lorenzo Sonego and Miomir Kecmanovic en route to a well-deserved maiden ATP showpiece.

But this match was largely about his opponent – at least, it was in the eyes of the Eastbourne crowd, who have been won over by their home hope’s unique backstory over the course of the week.

In what is becoming increasingly well-documented, particularly among British tennis circles, Harris spent much of his career travelling long distances around Europe in a Ford Transit van to play tournaments, saving money on accommodation as a result while he scrapped for ranking points in the lower rungs of the ATP ladder.

This time twelve months ago, he was ranked 352nd in the world and had just fallen in the first round of qualifying for Wimbledon.

One year on, and he is gearing up to play his first Grand Slam tournament after receiving a wildcard from the All England Club, having also reached a maiden ATP semi-final in front of home fans with some excellent grass-court tennis.

entertaining grass-court encounter goes the way of purcell

Today, it was one match too far for Harris, as he came up against the highly impressive form of Purcell in the last four. The Australian too is currently only ranked 94th in the world, and has reached an excellent milestone with his first ATP final berth.

It was a typical grass-court encounter in many ways, with a single break of serve proving decisive in each of the three sets.

Both players defended serve well, Purcell in particular fending off seven of nine break points he faced.

After a break apiece handed the first set to the Aussie and the second to Harris, the decider was always going to come down to who blinked first on serve.

Sadly for Harris and the British spectators, it was the Brit’s concentration that lapsed, a slip-up in the fourth game of the third set ultimately sealing the victory for his opponent after good pressure from Purcell.

But Harris can leave the south coast on a genuine high, having established himself as a well-known name within British tennis with a career-best tournament finish, and with the knowledge that a maiden appearance in Wimbledon’s main draw awaits him next week.

For Purcell, he caps off a fine week with a first final against either compatriot Aleksander Vukic or top-seeded Taylor Fritz.

However that one pans out tomorrow, it’s been a thoroughly impressive tournament for the Australian and one that positions him well for the season’s only grass-court major when it gets underway in just a few days’ time.

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