Aussie tennis star in brutal twist after swipe at Lleyton Hewitt

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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  • Lleyton Hewitt
    Lleyton Hewitt
    Australian tennis player and tennis coach
  • Max Purcell
    Australian tennis player (1998-)
  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player
Max Purcell was knocked out of the Australian Open days after calling out Lleyton Hewitt for not picking him for a grand slam wildcard. Pictures: Getty Images
Max Purcell was knocked out of the Australian Open days after calling out Lleyton Hewitt for not picking him for a grand slam wildcard. Pictures: Getty Images

Max Purcell has been bundled out of the Australian Open qualifiers days after taking a swipe at Australian great Lleyton Hewitt.

The 23-year-old world No.174 was sent packing after a brutal 7-6, 7-6 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic's Jiri Lehecka, one of seven Australian players to lose in qualifiers on Wednesday.

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Unhappy that he had been overlooked for a wildcard entry, Purcell has reportedly sought to speak with Tennis Australia over the matter following his singles defeat.

Earlier in the week Purcell sensationally accused Hewitt of favouritism, suggesting the tennis great "didn't have the balls to tell him" he had missed out on a wildcard entry.

He said he was under the impression he was to find out in person from Hewitt last week whether or not he would earn a wildcard entry, in which case he would have contested the Sydney Tennis Classic this week instead of the grand slam qualifiers.

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."

Aside from confirming he had held conversations with Tennis Australia, the world No.174 said: "I don't really want to talk about it.

"I said that I'm not bothered about getting a wildcard. I want to beat guys in qualifying and I want to earn my spot in the main draw. I've got no hard feelings there."

Tough day for local hopefuls in Australian Open qualifiers

Kimberly Birrell was the sole winner among eight Australians in action as she claimed a 6-2 6-1 victory over Georgia's Ekaterine Gorgodze.

Birrell, who has spent the last 12 months battling a troublesome elbow injury, must beat Britain's Harriet Dart to secure her spot at Melbourne next week.

Purcell's loss was one of many for Australia's men on Wednesday with 20-year-old Dane Sweeny going down 6-4 6-2 to Kazakhstan's Timofey Skatov.

Philip Sekulic, an 18-year-old Queenslander, was no match for another Kazakh, Dmitry Popko, who claimed a 6-4 6-2 win over the Australian.

Kimberly Birrell was the only Aussie playr to progress through the Australian Open qualifiers on Wednesday. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)
Kimberly Birrell was the only Aussie playr to progress through the Australian Open qualifiers on Wednesday. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Sydneysider Rinky Hijikata was forced to retire when he was a set down against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

Later in the day, Jason Kubler lost 7-5 5-7 6-3 to Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry and former junior Australian Open champion Marc Polmans threw a set lead away to lose 3-6 6-0 6-4 to Portugal's Joao Sousa.

Birrell enjoyed the only win among the women in action on Wednesday with 16-year-old Western Australian Taylah Preston suffering a 6-0 6-0 loss to South Korea's Jang Su-jeong.

"To be honest, even just playing the first round on Monday meant so much to me," Birrell said.

"I'm just taking it one match at a time. Each time I'm stepping out on court, I'm pinching myself and feeling really grateful."

With AAP

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