Purcell and Thompson Eye Houston History

By Hanlon Walsh

If Australians Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson have looked unbeatable on the doubles court this week, it’s because they are. The No. 4 seeds - the only seeded team who advanced beyond the first round - have yet to lose a doubles match at US Clay together. 

On Friday night, they continued their winning ways with a 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-3 over surprise semifinalists, N. Sriram Balaji and Andre Begemann, the Indian-German duo who knocked out top seeds Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram in their opening match.

“We were a bit low on energy coming into the final tonight after Jordan lost a tough singles match to Frances earlier, so we couldn’t have gotten through the win tonight without the energy of the crowd - you guys were awesome!”, exclaimed Purcell in his post-match interview with host Blair Henley. “If I get the three-peat tomorrow I’ll keep coming back to Houston every year. Winning titles and celebrating my birthday here every year…what could be better?”

Heading into the 2024 US Clay doubles final on Saturday, defending champions Purcell and Thompson have amassed a 7-0 lifetime record at River Oaks. Even more impressive, Purcell himself has an unblemished 11-0 doubles record here. In 2022, he won the doubles title with fellow Aussie and ATP doubles world No. 2 Matt Ebden.

A 2024 title defense would make Purcell and Thompson the first team to defend their trophy since Bob and Mike Bryan won three consecutive years from 2009-2011. Purcell, who jokingly considers doubles as “free money”, would also tie the Bryan Brothers’ River Oaks record by becoming the first player to win the US Clay “three-peat” in 13 years.

The Aussie duo has been one of the most in-form doubles teams on tour this year. In the first three months of the season, they have posted a 15-3 record and won two ATP 250 hardcourt titles in Dallas and Los Cabos. A win in Houston would mark their fourth ATP title together.

For Purcell, it would be his seventh title with three different Aussie partners - Thompson, Ebden and Rinky Hijikata (2023 Tokyo). For Thompson, it would be his 5th career doubles title - four alongside Purcell and one with fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis (2017 Brisbane).

First Time’s a Charm for Blumberg and Peers

Standing in the Australians’ way of making history at River Oaks is the first-time duo of American Will Blumberg and Australian John Peers

Peers, 35, is a 2013 U.S. clay doubles champion who is making his first return to River Oaks since he won the title here 11 years ago. He is the most accomplished clay court tennis player in the field with eight career titles on the dirt (and 27 total). As a staple atop the ATP doubles landscape for the last decade, Peers’ doubles resume speaks for itself. He is the 2017 Australian Open champion, two-time major finalist at 2015 Wimbledon and US Open, and a two-time ATP Finals champion in 2016-207.

Peers is also an accomplished mixed doubles player, having won an Olympic bronze medal with former WTA No. 1 Ash Barty at the 2020 Tokyo Games and the 2022 US Open mixed doubles title with Storm Sanders.

Blumberg, 26, is a three-time ATP 250 title winner and two-time ATP 250 finalist, all with five different doubles partners. A win at River Oaks would be his first title of 2024 and fourth ATP career title with four different partners. Blumberg has previously won doubles titles with a pair of Americans who enjoyed success at River Oaks - Jack Sock (2021 Newport) and Steve Johnson (2022 Newport). He also won Los Cabos in 2023 with Miomir Kecmanovic.

A former UNC standout, Blumberg was the first collegiate player to become a 10-time ITA All-American in history (five times in singles and five in doubles). 

The American-Aussie pair stormed through their opening two rounds at US Clay, dropping a combined six games in 96 minutes. This included a convincing 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 1 singles seed Ben Shelton and his former college teammate, Andres Andrade, in the quarterfinal round. Their semifinal match was a more tightly contested affair, edging the Brazilian team of Fernando Romboli and Marcelo Zormann 6-7(3), 6-3, 10-3.

Three Aussies and One American Square Off on Saturday Night

Saturday’s final will mark the first meeting between both teams, but each of the four players shares a unique individual history with one another. While they will be opponents in Saturday’s final, Blumberg and Purcell teamed up last year to finish runner-up at the 2023 ATP 250 event on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.. 

Purcell and Peers competed together for Team Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, losing in R1 to Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren. Meanwhile, Thompson and Peers last played together at the 2019 Davis Cup for Team Australia. Thompson and Blumberg are the only combination among the four players who have never played together. 

No. 4 Purcell and Thompson will take on Blumberg and Peers on Saturday evening (not before 4 p.m.) on Stadium Court following the singles semi-finals. Both the singles semifinals and doubles finals will be broadcast Saturday on the ESPN App.


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