He may have lacked experience on clay at a full tour level, but that certainly did not show. Cameron Norrie, whose successes in US College tennis stood him in great stead as he mounted the biggest of comebacks on the first day against World No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut. Coming from two sets down, Norrie stunned the Spaniard and the rest of the host team with his tenacity to level the tie.
Disappointingly Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot could not give them the lead going into the second day, but for the second time, the Spanish team found themselves completely discombobulated by Norrie as he overcame a slow start from 0-4 down to force a tie-break, before capitalising on some uncertainty by Albert Ramos Vinolas to grab the second set.
The Spaniard never looked completely comfortable in the third set, as Norrie once more forced a tie-break while things looked to get quite heated between Spanish team captain Sergi Bruguera at some of the umpiring decisions.
Norrie has been plying most of his trade on the Challenger tour in the past year, and his Australian Open campaign was short lived as he fell in the qualifying rounds. After ending 2016 ranked just inside the top 600, he rose to a year-ending No. 158 in the world last year – to just outside the Top 100 (No. 114) at the start of this year.
Kicking off the tie, Liam Broady may have lost in straight sets, but the score by no means tells the story. Equally as tenacious as Norrie, Broady had Ramos Vinolas looking troubled as the Spaniard was looking for his first live rubber win.
When broken by the Spaniard, he broke straight back and in the second set, he made Ramos Vinolas earn a two-set lead, saving five set points in the process. Even in the final set, the Brit was broken at the end, breaking straight back to force a tie-break.
It was a strong debut by Broady – we can expect to see more.
We will never know whether he would have been fit enough to take it into a decider – but he has had the weight of the British team on his shoulders before, bringing home an away win in Serbia.
His spirited run in Australia gave him a taste for competing at the highest level, with some top quality scalps claimed along the way. If he can fully recover from the hip injury he sustained in his semi-final in Melbourne, he will pick up the tour in South America for the Golden Swing on the Latin-American clay.
For a while now, people have been bemoaning the eventual loss of Andy Murray from our screens – the three-time Grand Slam champ is intending to return from hip surgery at the start of the year in time for the grass court season, and reports of his demise are indeed premature at this point.
Yet even if they were not – the year has started extremely well with three solid performances which will hopefully pave the way for a lot of improvement over the year.
The ATP tour continues next week, with the Great Britain’s women in action in the Group stages of the Fed Cup.
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