The World No. 283 knocked out top-seeded Frenchman and 2017 finalist Gael Monfils 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes at Devonshire Park.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Purcell. “I’ve struggled to get into any singles events over the past nine months and primarily played doubles, so to get on a run here, on my favourite surface, is great. I thought I’d come out and have a go. When I missed the opportunity to close out the match at 5-4 in the second set, Gael showed what a good player he is.”
Purcell beat former World No. 5 and 2018 Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson in the first round of Eastbourne qualifying. He will next challenge 2011 champion and fellow lucky loser Andreas Seppi, who defeated Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-2, 6-3 in 69 minutes.
Monfils came within two points of defeat at 4-5 in the second set, but a crosscourt forehand winner sparked the Frenchman into life. From 3-5 down in the second set, Monfils won seven straight games before Purcell won five in a row to lead 5-3 in the decider. Purcell calmly closed out just his third tour-level win of the year with a hold to 15.
Monfils struck 16 aces past Purcell, but failed in his quest to reach his first ATP Tour quarter-final since February 2020 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (l. to Djokovic in the semi-finals).
Elsewhere at the ATP 250 event, eighth-seeded Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik won 25 of 31 first-service points to beat Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 6-2, 6-2 in 66 minutes. He will now play third seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy or Australia’s John Millman.