Cameron Norrie’s first appearance in a final on the main ATP tour ended in a disappointing 6-4, 6-2 defeat to Tennys Sandgren in Auckland on Saturday, but the 23-year-old Briton will barely have time to reflect on his week’s work at the ASB Classic. Just 48 hours later Norrie will play his first match here at the Australian Open, when he takes on Taylor Fritz.
The first day of the year’s opening Grand Slam tournament on Monday will be a busy one for British tennis supporters. Eight British singles players are competing in the main draw here – the highest number for 31 years – and seven of them are on the first day’s schedule. The only Briton not on court is Johanna Konta, whose opening match against Alja Tomljanovic will be played on Tuesday.
Sandgren, like Norrie, was aiming to win his first title. In his only previous appearance in a final the 27-year-old American lost to his compatriot, Steve Johnson, at Houston in April.
Norrie, who grew up in New Zealand, had good support from the crowd but made a poor start as Sandgren broke serve at the first attempt. It was only the third time in the tournament that Norrie had dropped his serve.
Although Norrie broke back to level at 2-2, Sandgren immediately broke again. Norrie failed to convert a break point when trailing 4-3 and Sandgren went on to serve out for the set in 41 minutes.
Sandgren broke again in the third game of the second set. Norrie continued to make inroads into his opponent’s service games but the American went on to complete his victory in 78 minutes by converting his second match point.
“He was solid throughout,” Norrie told atptour.com afterwards. “He was not making many errors and I think I over-pressed it a little bit. He was moving unbelievably this week and today. He served great. I actually think I played better in the second set but he served too good in the second set.”
Norrie, who is expected to rise 25 places in next week’s updated world ranking list to No 68, will be making his debut in the main draw of the Australian Open when he takes on Fritz, who was one of his victims in Auckland this week.
Most British interest on the first day here will inevitably centre on Andy Murray, who faces Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth match of the day in Melbourne Arena starting not before 6pm (7am GMT).
However, the preceding contest between Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych is potentially one of the matches of the opening round. Berdych is unseeded after missing the last six months of 2018 with a back problem, but the former world No 4 has an excellent record here and reached the final in Doha last week on his comeback.
Edmund made the semi-finals here 12 months ago with the best Grand Slam run of his career. He also had a challenging first match on that occasion, when he beat Kevin Anderson in five sets.
The 23-year-old Briton’s preparations have been hampered by a knee problem which led to his withdrawal from this week’s tournament in Sydney, but he has had plenty of court time in practice this week and reported improvement with the injury.
“It’s a lot better than what it was,” he said. “I’ve been practising pretty much like my normal schedule. I’m happy the way it’s going and getting better. Things don’t happen overnight. They take time to progress. You have to obviously manage it very well.”
The world No 14 has a third of his total of ranking points to defend over the next fortnight but said he would not be losing any sleep about his position in the world order. “It’s a number on a sheet of paper,” Edmund said. “The worst that can happen is I lose and I go down a bunch of rankings.”
He added: “My goals are just to go out there and play well. I’m pleased with the way I’ve been going with my fitness and continuing to get that better. This year’s so long. There are so many more opportunities after this tournament to do well.”
Dan Evans, who won three matches in qualifying to reach the main draw, will meet Japan’s Tatsuma Ito, another qualifier, in the third match of the opening day on Court 19. In the second round the winner will face either Roger Federer or Denis Istomin, who play the last match of the opening night session in Rod Laver Arena.
Harriet Dart, Katie Boulter and Heather Watson play the opening matches (11am start) on Rod Laver Arena, Court 12 and Court 14 respectively. Dart meets Maria Sharapova, Boulter faces the highly experienced Ekaterina Makarova and Watson will take on the No 31 seed, Croatia’s Petra Martic.
Jamie Murray and his Brazilian doubles partner, Bruno Soares, claimed their first title of the year on Saturday when they won the Sydney International. Murray and Soares, who had lost in the first round in Doha last week, beat the Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-4, 6-3 in the final.