A calm and steady Cameron Norrie in the first round of the 2021 Australian Open won the Australian Open Battle of the Brits, with a four-set win over the British No. 1 Dan Evans. It will not have gone without notice that both he and the other lead-in tournament winner Jannik Sinner came up short in the first round of the Slam, and the pressure of a quick turnaround for Evans was immediately apparent in the first round.
Norrie was the first to break, and the more agitated Evans got, the less Norrie had to do to stay on top of the game. More than that, Evans seemed to just lack the kind of tactical game he is known for, not really adjusting well to trying to make things uncomfortable for a lefty.
Instead, he looked flat while Norrie ticked along, and even when Evans pegged him back a set, kept his head and resisted Evan’s little flurry of resistance in the fourth set to come out on top.
After the match, Norrie said: “It’s never easy having to play the only other Brit in the draw. And I’m good friends with Dan. I have obviously played him a bunch in a couple of the Battle of the Brits over in London. We have played each other a lot. We both know each other’s games well. It was not easy. I was very nervous before the match. And obviously he had done well last week and got the title, so I knew he was going to be playing well. I was ready for that.
“Managed to serve well and take it to him. I think he was a little bit fatigued from coming off from last week, which was unfortunate. I was ready for a five-set battle, and I thought it was going to be, from both of us I thought the level was going to be better.”
Evans felt the circumstances of having a lead-up the week before a Slam was less than ideal.
He said in his press conference: “I think Cam played all the tennis, really. Yeah, I fought hard, and that was about it, really. It was a difficult turnaround, and that was that.
“I think when you’re flat mentally, it pays off on you physically. I wasn’t very energetic, started very slowly. You know, I prepared as well as I could, but I could feel myself talking a lot, and it was tough to get out of. I was definitely probably tired mentally, and then — I did a good job to hang in the match.
“It’s a bit bittersweet really. Like I want to do well in the Grand Slams, and due respect to that tournament, no one is going to remember I won that in three weeks’ time. Yeah, it’s difficult to swallow, but you know, it is what it is now. I’ve had worse, so just move on.”
Preview: Norrie v Roman Safiullin [Q] | H2H: First Meeting
Cameron Norrie v Roman Safiullin
H2H: First Meeting
Prize Money: A$150,000
Fourth on Court 8, not before 4:30pm
Tennis TV/Eurosport Player if available
Norrie will face qualifier Roman Safiullin in the second round. Aside from a first round exit in the ATP Great Ocean Road Open, while Norrie was starting his season in Delray Beach, Safiullin got his early form in with three qualifying rounds in Doha.
Tale of the Tape – Key Stats (2020)
Cameron Norrie (69)
Roman Safiullin (183)
Tournament Previous Best
R1 (2019, 2020)
1st Serve %
Service Games Won %
Break Points Saved %
2nd Serve Return Points Won %
Break Points Converted %
Both players reach the second round of the Australian Open for the first time – and in the case of Safiullin, on his debut. Going back through the more complete stats for 2020 at this stage, Norrie has the advantage in almost every way except maybe where attacking weak second serves are concerned, which might be an rea for him to exploit.
Norrie has rounded into quite a complete player, and after some heartbreakers of Slam losses, this win against Evans should give him a lot of confidence. There have been occasions where he has started well and the match gets away from him and coming in to serve to stay in the set in the fourth set was a prime example of where he kept his head and rode out the storm.
Norrie said, in his press conference: “He’s a couple years younger than me. He was always a very good junior and he’s a real talented guy, but I’m going to take it to him. My coach actually went after my match and went and watched that match, so he was scouting a little bit.
“But I have seen him. He was in St. Petersburg in the last year, and he’s got a big game and hits the ball huge. I’ll be ready for that. Yeah, just looking forward to that one. Going to enjoy the win tonight and then get ready for that one on Wednesday.”
It would be quick to dismiss the Russian’s chances, but he took out a more experienced player on his way to this round, and will bring a very different look to the ball. Norrie will need to be up on his serve, and while we might not have seen much of it in the first round, it would be good to see Norrie coming in and taking the aggressive game to the Russian.
Prediction: Norrie in three sets.
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