Billy Harris falls just short at Eastbourne in defeat to Max Purcell

Harris fell just short at Eastbourne (George Tewkesbury/PA Wire)
Harris fell just short at Eastbourne (George Tewkesbury/PA Wire)

Wildcard Billy Harris fell just short of becoming the first Briton to reach the men's singles final at Eastbourne after he was beaten in three sets by Australian Max Purcell at the Rothesay International.

The 29-year-old had reached the quarter-finals at Queen's last week, and upset Italian world number 49 Flavio Cobolli in the last round at Devonshire Park.

However, Harris found Australian Purcell, who had came through qualifying, in determined mood to dampen the home crowd as he progressed 6-4 4-6 6-4 and will go on to meet either American top seed Taylor Fritz or compatriot Aleksandar Vukic in the final of the ATP 250 event.

Purcell - who won the 2022 Wimbledon doubles title alongside Matthew Ebden - built on an early break in the first set to open up a 3-1 lead.

Nottingham-born Harris, ranked 139 in the world, recovered to hold his next three service games, but Purcell soon closed things out 6-4.

Purcell kept the pressure on at the start of the second set, with Harris having to save two break points before eventually holding.

Harris again had to dig deep to fend off three more break opportunities in the fifth game - before firing down a swift love-game to move 4-3 ahead.

The British number five - set to play Spain's Jaume Munar at Wimbledon on Tuesday - maintained his momentum to force a first break chance of the match in the 10th game.

Although Purcell pulled it back to deuce, another powerful backhand from Harris saw the Australian send his return into the net to leave the match all square.

However Purcell, the world number 94, then took the early initiative in the deciding set with a break to lead 2-1 before Harris missed an opportunity to immediately break back when he sent a return just long.