Britain’s top male player has made it through to round three of the Australian Open having survived disruption caused by rain delays and rowdy fans in a match which as the last on the day’s schedule, was completed at 1.28am on Thursday!
Completely different (conditions) than what I’ve been playing in the last couple of weeks – freezing, windy and obviously it was tough playing him, he barely missed any first serves, Cameron Norrie
Thanks to persistent rain, Cameron Norrie was forced to labour into the early hours of the morning to defeat Frenchman Constant Lestienne after their second round match was moved to an outside court with a starting time of 10pm.
And there were a few brief stops for drizzle, disruption by rowdy spectators and plenty of twists and turns before Norrie finally wrapped up a 6-3 3-6 7-6(2) 6-3 victory over his unseeded French opponent.
A handful of fans, some wrapped in blankets to keep out the unseasonal chill, stayed to the end as Norrie moved through to a third-round clash with talented young Czech Jiri Lehecka.
Some of those fans though, gave the umpire some problems with their loud beer-fuelled chanting resulting in him banishing three of them from the stands at the end of the first set. Another fan was reprimanded for loud audible swearing during the fourth!
Norrie took it all in good spirits, saying: “In the first set there was a lot of English fans. And they had the football chants going, which was good fun, and then obviously they got kicked out.
“I could still hear them in the second set. But it was a great atmosphere. It’s great obviously on one of the outside courts for them to stay around and support, especially playing so late and cold and everything, so it definitely spurred me on and got me through it, especially in that third set.”
The 30-year-old Lestienne is one of the journey men of the tour playing in his first grand slam after failing to qualify on 21 previous occasions.
With an unconventional game, he frustrated the British No.1 continually with his trick shots and tactics.
For instance when down a set point in the opener he played a lob through his legs which was successfully smashed away by Norrie but then in the second, the pendulum did swing the Frenchman’s way and the Brit suddenly found himself 2-5 down in the third!
Norrie though, is now well experienced in making strong recoveries and fought his way back into the match to claim the third on a tie-break and storming through the fourth and completing a well-earned victory on his second match point.
“Completely different (conditions) than what I’ve been playing in the last couple of weeks – freezing, windy and obviously it was tough playing him, he barely missed any first serves,” Norrie admitted after.
“It was swirling and he was one of the toughest guys out there to play today in those conditions, but I found a way in the end. For 90 per cent of that I was not there mentally so it was nice to pull it back.”
Up next, Norrie will take on the Czech Lehecka, who beat Christopher Eubanks of the US 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-3 for a spot in the fourth round.
He is the first Brit to advance into the third round of the Men’s competition and will hope to be joined by Andy Murray and Dan Evans who are both yet to play their second-round clashes which are on Thursday’s schedule.