Mel Purcell enters his 17th season at the helm of the Murray State men’s tennis program after spending five seasons as assistant coach.
He has guided the program to back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2001 and 2002. The team’s performance in those two seasons led to Purcell being named OVC Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2002.
After going 4-2 against OVC teams during the regular season in 2001, the Racers claimed the OVC Tournament championship and earned a bid to the program’s first NCAA Tournament. MSU fell to Big 10 power Illinois in the first round.
In 2002, the squad went undefeated (5-0) in the OVC and captured Murray State’s 19th OVC Championship. In their second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Racers fell to the University of Kentucky in the first round.
Purcell took the reins of the Murray State men’s tennis program from his father, MSU Hall-of-Famer Bennie Purcell, for whom the Murray State courts are named. The senior Purcell coached tennis at Murray State for 28 seasons, earning 11 Ohio Valley Conference championships along the way.
A 1977 graduate of Murray High School, Purcell captured the Kentucky High School championship as a senior. He went on to the University of Memphis, where he won the Metro Conference singles and doubles titles.
The following year, he transferred to the University of Tennessee, where he became an All-American in 1980 and captured two Southeastern Conference titles. As a collegiate senior, he teamed with Rodney Harmon to win the NCAA doubles championship.
After college, Purcell joined the professional tour and climbed into the top 40 in the rankings on his way to becoming the ATP Rookie of the Year.
Purcell was ranked in the top 30 in five of his 10 seasons, reaching his highest ranking of No. 17 in November 1980. He would go on to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1983 before falling in four sets to eventual runner-up Chris Lewis.
Purcell spent 10 years on the pro tour and captured three singles championships and four doubles crowns. Along the way, Purcell knocked off Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl.
Purcell stays active with the Jimmy Connors Champions Tour, playing with the likes of Connors, Bjorn Borg, Roscoe Tanner and John McEnroe. He has also served as the color commentator for TV broadcasts of the Champions Tour.