Britain’s Cameron Norrie produces his finest display in recent months to beat Casper Ruud and reach the Australian Open fourth round for the first time.
Australian Open 2024
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-28 January
Coverage: Commentary every day from 07:00 GMT on Tennis Breakfast on Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the BBC Sport website and app
British number one Cameron Norrie says his performance to beat 11th seed Casper Ruud and reach the Australian Open fourth round for the first time was one of his “best at a Slam”.
Norrie, seeded 19th, played aggressively and smartly in a 6-4 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-3 win in Melbourne.
The 28-year-old will face German sixth seed Alexander Zverev or American teenager Alex Michelsen on Monday.
“Honestly it is so special,” Norrie said about reaching the last 16.
“In terms of performances, it was up there with one of my best in a Grand Slam.”
Norrie, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2022, is the only Briton remaining in either singles draw.
Beating three-time Grand Slam finalist Ruud means Norrie is the first British player to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park since Kyle Edmund in 2018.
“Being in the second week here for the first time and also to start the year playing some good tennis means a lot,” Norrie said.
“It helped having a good break and a really good off-season to put a lot of time on the court and get better.
“I want to keep going. I know it just gets tougher. I’ll enjoy today and then move on.”
Norrie feels benefits of ‘going out of comfort zone’
After rising through the rankings over the past few seasons and becoming a fixture in the world’s top 20, Norrie found himself having to negotiate a rare difficult spell last year.
The left-hander did not go past the third round at any of the four Grand Slams, going on to lose 10 of his 12 matches after the US Open in a miserable end to the season.
Norrie later admitted he felt burned out from a consistently hectic schedule since 2020.
He decided to take a break from the ATP Tour by withdrawing from the Paris Masters in October and, after playing for Britain in the Davis Cup, started his pre-season programme with some hiking in the French Alps.
The trip with fitness trainer Vasek Jursik served a dual purpose – it provided mental freshness and built a solid fitness base for the season ahead.
Norrie described the trip as a challenge which took him out of his comfort zone.
But his impressive start to 2024, beating in-form Australian world number 10 Alex de Minaur before adding another notable scalp in Ruud, seems to indicate it has paid dividends.
“I had to play really brave and almost won that second set, but I didn’t let it bother me and it was a good mental performance,” added Norrie.
“I stuck to my gameplan and I came through. I’ve been working hard in the off season to be a little more aggressive and managed to do that.”
‘Playing free’ helps Norrie end losing run
Norrie had lost all three of his previous matches against Norway’s Ruud, who has reached the past two French Open finals and finished runner-up at the 2022 US Open.
In the build-up to their first meeting over five sets, Norrie stressed the importance of executing better in the bigger moments if he was going to win.
Looking mentally locked in and playing aggressively, Norrie did that throughout.
He converted his first break point for a 3-1 lead and, aided by some splendid serving, fought back from 0-40 to hold for 4-2.
That laid the platform for Norrie to go on and clinch the opener, fighting off another break point before leaping into a backhand winner which he stuck away on set point.
The Briton targeted Ruud’s weaker backhand and showed he is not just a grinder from the baseline as he regularly bounded forward to finish off points.
That was key to his success.
After a tight second set which Ruud nicked in the tie-break, Norrie was broken for 3-2 in the third but continued to stick to his plan.
Going to the net helped Norrie instantly level for 3-3 and then take the lead when Ruud hit a backhand into the net on set point.
Norrie moved 3-1 ahead in the fourth, surviving a break point before holding for a 5-2 lead, and hit four more winning volleys in the final game to wrap up an impressive victory.
“I came forward a lot and volleyed really well. I was enjoying myself and I played really free,” said Norrie, who won 41 of his 56 points at the net.