Mel Purcell
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Mel Purcell

Mel Purcell
Mel Purcell.jpg
Country (sports) United States
ResidenceMurray, KY
Born (1959-07-18) July 18, 1959 (age 62)
Joplin, MO
Height1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)
Turned pro1979
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money$797,197
Career record190-164
Career titles3
Highest rankingNo. 21 (November 3, 1980)
Grand Slam singles results
French Open4R (1981, 1982)
WimbledonQF (1983)
US Open3R (1980, 1981, 1982, 1986)
Career record118-139
Career titles4
Highest rankingNo. 47 (August 20, 1984)
Grand Slam doubles results
French OpenQF (1981)
Wimbledon3R (1984)
US Open3R (1978, 1982, 1983)

Mel Purcell (born July 18, 1959) is a former professional tennis player and coach from the U.S. His career-high singles ranking was world No. 21, achieved in November 1980.[1] Purcell's finest moment was when he reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 1983. He was head coach of the Murray State University men's tennis team from 1996 to 2016.

Early years

Purcell grew up in Murray, Kentucky, and played in the Kentucky State Tennis Tournament as a fifth-grader, and won two state doubles crowns with older brother Del as a middle schooler. He made the state singles finals three straight years, winning as a senior.

Purcell graduated Murray High School and went on to Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), where he played for one year. He transferred to the University of Tennessee, where in 1980 he won an NCAA doubles championship with teammate Rodney Harmon.

Pro career

Purcell made his debut on the professional circuit in Summer 1980. As a wild card entrant at the Washington (D.C.) Star Tournament, he upset top-ranked Eddie Dibbs. Two weeks later, he qualified for a spot in the U.S. Clay Courts, where he beat Hank Pfister and top-10 ranked Harold Solomon, then lost in the finals to José Luis Clerc. Purcell saw his Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranking soar from the 300s to the top 40 and was crowned 1980 ATP Rookie of the Year.

The next year, he played at Wimbledon, the first of six appearances (1981-85, 1987). He reached the quarterfinals in 1983, beating Tim Wilkison, Stuart Bale, Andreas Maurer and Brian Gottfried to reach the quarterfinals.

Purcell played in the US Open 10 times (1978-87) where he recorded victories over Stan Smith, Andrés Gómez and Ilie N?stase, among others. During this time, he was part of a rare match that saw the eventual loser win two sets 6-0. This occurred during his third round loss to José Luis Clerc 6-3, 0-6, 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the 1981 US Open. He competed in the French Open six times (1981-84, 1987-88) where he twice reached the round of 16 in singles and in 1981 reached the doubles quarterfinals with Vincent Van Patten.

Another career highlight was beating Ivan Lendl and Fernando Luna at Boston in 1982.

Injuries to his elbow from a car accident and a pulled stomach muscle slowed his career in 1985, but a year later, he beat Boris Becker in the German Open.[2]

Purcell won three ATP singles titles in 1981: at Atlanta, Tampa and Tel Aviv. He also teamed to claim four doubles titles: at Delray Beach (1982 with Chip Hooper), Munich (1982 with Eliot Teltscher) and Vienna (1983 with Stan Smith and 1987 with Tim Wilkison).

Awards and accolades

In 2015, Purcell was inducted into The Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.[3]

Career finals

Singles (3 titles)

Result W/L Date Tournament Surface Opponent Score
Win 1-0 Mar 1981 Tampa, U.S. Hard United States Jeff Borowiak 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Win 2-0 Aug 1981 Atlanta, U.S. Hard France Gilles Moretton 6-4, 6-2
Win 3-0 Oct 1981 Tel Aviv, Israel Hard Sweden Per Hjertquist 6-1, 6-1

Doubles (4 titles)

Result W/L Date Tournament Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win 1-0 Jan 1982 Delray Beach WCT, U.S. Clay United States Eliot Teltscher Czechoslovakia Tomá? ?míd
Hungary Balázs Taróczy
6-4, 7-6
Win 2-0 May 1982 Munich, Germany Clay United States Chip Hooper South Africa Tian Viljoen
South Africa Danie Visser
6-4, 7-6
Win 3-0 Oct 1983 Vienna, Austria Carpet (i) United States Stan Smith Brazil Marcos Hocevar
Brazil Cássio Motta
6-3, 6-4
Win 4-0 Oct 1987 Vienna, Austria Carpet (i) United States Tim Wilkison Spain Emilio Sánchez
Spain Javier Sánchez
6-3, 7-5


Purcell was the head men's tennis coach at Murray State University from 1996 - when he succeeded his father, hall of fame coach Bennie Purcell - until the university dropped the sport in 2016.[4] He led Murray State to back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference titles in 2001 and 2002 and was named OVC Coach of the Year both seasons.[5]

He was still playing matches on the Jimmy Connors Champions Tour in his 40s, where he played against and sometimes beat Jimmy Connors, Björn Borg, and John McEnroe.[6]

Purcell hosts a tennis camp every summer for children and teens.[7]


  1. ^ "Mel Purcell | Overview | ATP Tour | Tennis".
  2. ^ "Mel Purcell VS Boris Becker | Head 2 Head | ATP Tour | Tennis". ATP Tour. Retrieved 2021.
  3. ^ "Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame - Homegrown Sports Legends". KY Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2021.
  4. ^ "Murray State dropping sponsorship of men's tennis team". WKMS-FM. May 16, 2016.
  5. ^ "Bennie and Mel: The Great Purcells". Murray State News. December 4, 2015.
  6. ^ "Out & About...Kentucky Style: Murray's Mel Purcell". Murray Ledger & Times. March 5, 2021.
  7. ^ "Tennis camp planned". Kentucky New Era. May 9, 2002. p. B3.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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