'Didn’t have the balls': Aussie star's angry Lleyton Hewitt swipe

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  • Lleyton Hewitt
    Lleyton Hewitt
    Australian tennis player and tennis coach
  • Max Purcell
    Australian tennis player (1998-)
  • Jannik Sinner
    Jannik Sinner
    Italian tennis player
Pictured left is Max Purcell, with Aussie tennis great Lleyton Hewitt circled on the right.
Max Purcell's latest comments are sure to go down like a lead balloon with Aussie tennis great Lleyton Hewitt. Pic: AAP/Getty

Aussie tennis star Max Purcell has taken a shock swipe at Lleyton Hewitt, accusing Australia's ATP Cup captain of "not having the balls" to tell the 23-year-old that he'd missed out on an Australian Open wildcard.

Purcell was part of Hewitt's Australian squad for the team's event in Sydney, where he was trounced 6-1 6-3 by Italian Jannik Sinner in the opening match.

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He was hoping to be granted free passage to play in the year's first grand slam as one of Australia's four wildcard entrants, but will have to secure his passage through the qualifiers after being overlooked by Hewitt and co.

That quest got off to the perfect start on Monday when Purcell dominated Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy 6-4 6-2 in his Australian Open qualifier at Melbourne Park.

The only time Purcell - the World No.174 - has played in the Australian Open singles draw was in 2020 when he made it through qualifying.

The 23-year-old claims Hewitt was supposed to tell him last week that he'd missed out on being granted a wildcard, before taking a not-so-subtle swipe at the Aussie legend.

“I actually was told I’d know on Thursday… (then) I’m hearing whispers in the Australian locker room from Lleyton saying something to ‘Crabby’ (Jaymon Crabb)," Purcell said.

“Then, at like 11pm, I messaged Wally (Masur, Tennis Australia performance director) saying, ‘Mate, I’ve got three hours to pull out of Sydney, otherwise I’ll be stuck playing Sydney instead of qualies – what’s going on?’.

“He’s like, ‘Oh, no, Lleyton was supposed to tell you; I wasn’t supposed to tell you. I told him to tell you considering he was the one who didn’t want you to have it’.

“So, I didn’t end up finding out until 11pm Thursday, because I guess he didn’t have the balls to tell me in person.”

Seen here, Australia's Max Purcell playing a backhand against Jannik Sinner at the ATP Cup in Sydney.
Australia's Max Purcell plays a backhand during the ATP Cup match against Jannik Sinner in Sydney. Pic: Getty

Max Purcell and Lleyton Hewitt have strained relationship 

Purcell and Hewitt have often failed to see eye to eye, with moves from his coach Nathan Healey to mend the relationship proving unsuccessful.

The youngster said he was "surprised" to miss out on a wildcard but also "expected" the bad news after being consistently overlooked.

"I've never been one of Lleyton's boys, so in the back of my mind I'm always like 'I'm probably not going to get one'," he said.

"... I've had that expectation that it doesn't matter where I'm ranked, I'm just not going to get it.

"I am No.176 in the world, so I should be in qualifying, anyway, so I'm kind of taking it like that."

Purcell stressed he had no issues with the players who'd received wildcards: Thanasi Kokkinakis, Aleksandar Vukic, Alex Bolt and Chris O'Connell.

But he suggested there needed to be "a little bit of a change in leadership" in terms of who handed wildcards out.

Purcell believed being "a bit of a smart arse" throughout his junior career had hurt his relationship with Hewitt and said he'd tried to reach out through his coach, Nathan Healey, but without success.

Purcell is not the first player to call out Hewitt, with Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios among several others to have clashed with the Australian captain in recent years.

Tomic, once again also overlooked for an Open wildcard, begins his qualifying quest on Tuesday against Russian Roman Safiullin. 

with AAP

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