Playing in front of his ‘home’ crowd – born in South Africa, he was raised in New Zealand before his family moved to Great Britain – Cameron Norrie reached the quarter finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland after defeating qualifier Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic 6-4 6-7(4) 6-3 after two-hours and 45-minutes of actual play in a match which, thanks to several rain delays, actually took some six hours to complete!
It was nice to get it out of the way, It’s tough on the concentration. Throughout the match we had to stop and start, we didn´t stay on the court and you´re constantly thinking whether you´re going to slip on the lines. Cameron Norrie
The tournament was in fact forced to play some matches indoors as the weather kept interfering with the schedule which didn’t do many other competitors any favours.
Top seed Casper Ruud, for instance, was unable to follow Norrie into the last eight as Serbia’s Laslo Djere capitalised on the situation to down the Norwegian 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) in two hours and seven-minutes.
Djere took control of a closely fought match featuring just two breaks of serve by opening an ultimately unassailable 6-1 lead in the deciding-set tie-break to secure his first win against a Top 5 opponent in six attempts.
Djere next faces Constant Lestienne who emerged a 1-6 7-6(4) 7-5 winner in an all-French encounter with qualifier Gregoire Berrere.
As regards the seeded players, the first three days of the tournament have been disastrous with all but one having suffered early exits the week before the Australian Open.
Norrie is the only one left and will certainly be a popular winner if he can hold on and extend his unbeaten run to include the title which would be the fifth of his career.
“It was nice to get it out of the way,” said Norrie, who is now 4-0 for the new season. “It’s tough on the concentration. Throughout the match we had to stop and start, we didn´t stay on the court and you´re constantly thinking whether you´re going to slip on the lines. I had a lot of chances in that second set. In the bigger moments he was playing better than me and taking the points to me. I think I wanted to up my energy and in that third set I really came out strong.”
As well as navigating the tough conditions, Norrie was delighted to come through his opening match in the country where he lived from the age of two to 16.
“Obviously, there were [some] nerves in me,” Norrie added. “Coming back to New Zealand I wanted to play well in front of everyone, and Jiri’s a great player. So, it was not easy, and credit to him in that second set for playing a really good tie-break. He really took it to me, but I really enjoyed the time on the court.
“[It is] good to be back in New Zealand, just a little bit disappointed I couldn’t talk in front of everyone. Everyone was very patient with the rain, not just us, but I’ll take the win and nice to serve it out the way I did in the end.”
In other action Jenson Brooksby of the US had earlier advanced to the quarter finals on his tournament debut after third seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina was forced to retire from the pair’s second-round clash having taken the first set 6-1 and will face Frenchman Quentin Halys, a 6-3 6-2 winner against American Ben Shelton.
David Goffin, the Belgian who ousted fifth seeded Bublik in round one, also advanced with a comfortable 6-2 6-4 over qualifier Chris Eubanks to set up a quarter final meeting with the French veteran Richard Gasquet who booked his last-eight spot with a 7-6(2) 6-2 win over Portugal’s Lucky Loser Joao Sousa.