Chennai Open Challenger: Purcell clinches title, beats Moreno de Alboran in a thriller

Max Purcell fought back from two championship points down to complete a 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory against Nicolas Moreno de Alboran in the singles final at the Chennai Open Challenger on Sunday.

Trailing by a set, Purcell found himself cornered when Moreno de Alboran scooped out a return from close range to earn two championship points in the 10th game. Purcell dug himself out with an array of serves.

The Australian first pulled to 30-40 with the combination of a wide serve in the deuce court followed by a forehand winner in the ad court. Moreno de Alboran wasted his second championship point after netting the return in reply to a slower spinning second serve from Purcell. An angled serve, and another one fired down the T won the Australian the next two points and got him level at 5-5.

Moreno de Alboran and Purcell held to love in their next service games, forcing a tiebreaker. The latter took the mini-break on the first point, volleying a backhand into space from close-range.

Reliance on rocket first serves, complemented by deft put-aways at the net got Purcell on level terms in the final as Moreno de Alboran could manage just two points in the tie-break.

Earlier in the set, Alboran too had relied on aggressive advances to the net to pull a break ahead. The American was within touching distance of the title when he served with a 5-3 lead. However, botched up forehands coupled with Purcell’s trusted on-the-rise backhand cost him.

The tug-off continued in the third set as the match clock inched towards the three-hour mark.

Purcell drew first blood, breaking Moreno de Alboran in the second game. The American struck right back courtesy a lucky net point and a missed drop-shot by Purcell to pull the set on serve.

The 2022 Wimbledon doubles winner held his serve thereon and put the onus on Moreno de Alboran to save the tie on serve. A backhand on-the-run winner put Purcell 30-0 ahead, much to the delight of a roughly 1000-strong audience.

Nevertheless, Moreno de Alboran had two game points to make it 5-5 but he wasted first with a forehand error at 40-30 and committed a double fault on the second. Another double fault handed Purcell a championship point. The American then fired in a cross-court backhand, only to see the ball tip off the net and tease its way back into his own half.

“Tennis is an interesting sport. You miss your chances and the match is gone. I did not want anything to get to me, and I did not want to finish without winning the tournament,” Purcell said after the match.

In the opener, Moreno de Alboran needed a solitary break to take the lead but faced stiff resistance from his opponent. He had the first peek in the sixth game when Purcell slapped two forehand into the net. Purcell escaped with a well-constructed rally, forcing Moreno de Alboran into end-to-end movement.

The American again squandered two break points in the eighth game. In the 12th game, with Purcell serving to force a tiebreaker, Moreno de Alboran finally stuck a foot in the door. He won two break points when Purcell, from the baseline, hit a backhand shot long.

Purcell saved first one with a forehand volley but another mistake on the backhand handed the first set to Moreno de Alboran.

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