Cameron Norrie says he will take confidence from his performance against Rafael Nadal despite losing in straight sets to the world number two in the Australian Open third round.
While Nadal was in control for much of his 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 win, Norrie was competitive throughout, breaking in the opening game of the match and unsettling the 20 times Grand Slam winner at various points.
“Yeah, I think it was a fairly close match and, yeah, there are some positives to take from that,” the British number three said afterwards. “But I think more I just left the court feeling like I want to get better and want to, definitely some things to work on.
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“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence that I could play close, but it was a bit frustrating. I mean, there was a lot of, especially in that first set I had a lot of chances, and, yeah, just a couple loose points and a couple of errors and that can cost him, and he didn't make those and I did.”
The match took place in the surreal surroundings of an empty Rod Laver Arena after a five-day, state-ordered lockdown in Victoria saw fans denied entry to Melbourne Park, with Norrie labelling the atmosphere “a bit strange.”
In this sense, the 25-year-old didn’t get the full big match experience, but defeat to Nadal showed Norrie where he must improve to take the next step in his career.
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Nadal was positive on Norrie’s chances of progressing further, calling the Brit’s play on Saturday “brave.”
“His level, I mean, is good,” said the Spaniard. “He has a lot of positive things. If he's able to keep improving, why not? I don't see why he can't reach that level.”
There are no doubts over Norrie’s ability to scrap. His mental strength was clear to see against Nadal, with the Brit refusing to buckle when scoreboard pressure would have got to other players.
He is a smart player who adopted a number of different tactics to throw Nadal off his rhythm, but this match was a sign of how the 25-year-old needs bigger weapons to succeed at this level.
Dan Evans’s rise over the last two years should give Norrie encouragement. He found himself in a similar place in his career not so long ago, but worked on his forehand as a real difference-maker.
Of course, a Grand Slam match against a player of Nadal’s calibre and weaponry wasn’t the best place to judge Norrie’s current level, but these are the sort of occasions he should aspire to become accustomed to.
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