Marathon man Cameron Norrie proved yet again why you can never count him out, as he recovered from a two-set deficit to complete a gutsy comeback at the Australian Open.
Speaking to Laura Robson live on Eurosport, Norrie candidly admitted to “bitching” too much to himself in the first two sets but that he backed himself once the match went as long as it did.
It was the third time in Norrie’s career that he has clawed his way back from the brink after falling so far behind. Not since 2020 had he done it though, and his fist-pumping celebrations were an indication of just how much it meant to prove his mettle again and reach the third round.
Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri had put himself in a perfect position to progress to a career-best result at a major in this, his debut at the Australian Open. The 22-year-old won the first two sets by firing 30 winners Norrie’s way, playing well above his ranking of 133. But 19th-seed Norrie, who was underperforming by his standards, was not about to go down without a fight.
Three rain delays helped him to reset and he ended up charging to a remarkable comeback, winning 3-6 6-7 6-2 6-4 6-4 in just over three and a half hours. It continued the British No 1’s dominance in five-set matches since 2022, winning four of the five he has played.
“When I came out for the fourth set, the crowd were amazing and I thought I was going to win the match – I knew it,” Norrie said.
“I was just bitching and whining too much.
“I just needed to stop making excuses and play but it was so difficult. He was hitting so many winners, serving great.
“There was nothing happening in the match and it was tough for me. So I was able to lift my energy somehow and break in the first game of the third set and turn it round.
“But it was a massive mental performance from me. I wasn’t looking good at the beginning.”
Later in his press conference he added: “He came out firing and basically took the racquet out of my hand for the first hour and a half. I was really flat. I was just complaining to myself about little things, wasn’t moving. I wasn’t thinking clearly.
“When the first rain delay came, I just felt a little bit calmer coming out to court. I got a chance to chat with my coach and change the game plan a little bit, to play a little bit more to the backhand side. I was really pleased more mentally how I managed to switch it around. I was not feeling good on the court, but I managed to finish the match.”
A run in Melbourne will no doubt bring Norrie, 28, some confidence, after his uncharacteristically poor results at the end of last season, losing six of his last eight matches. Last week, he dropped below the top 20 for the first time since late 2021 when he pulled out of an event in Auckland, due to wrist trouble.
On Thursday he was seen flexing his wrist a couple of times and also called the trainer out to check on his knee. Afterwards he said he “was making it a bigger deal than it probably was” and played down both issues.
“I don’t think the knee was anything,” he added. “I think I just was a bit more precautionary just to see if I played through, it was nothing. Actually it loosened up, I think it was probably just being very tense from the match. I think I have to make sure I warm up really well. Once the wrist is warm, then I’m not feeling it. So I think it’s just trying to stay warm and play and not think about it. I was able to prove that in the first couple matches.
“Once I switched my focus and my energy towards how to win and how to play and how to win points, I think that was key. I think it was a good match mentally for me.”
Norrie is the last Brit standing, and will play 11th seed Casper Ruud for a place in the last-16. That is something he has only achieved twice before at a major tournament and not since the US Open in 2022.
He and Ruud have not played each other since that same year, but on all three occasions they have previously met Norrie lost to the Norwegian, twice in straight sets. None were best-of-five set matches, though, and Norrie will back himself if the match goes the distance.
“He’s beaten me a few times in some really big matches,” he added. “I think a lot of the time [it] was down to execution and him staying a bit calmer than me in the bigger moments. I’m going to look at those matches and see where I can improve, what I can do to make him uncomfortable out there.”