Cameron Norrie outlasts Constant Lestienne in early hours to reach third round

Cameron Norrie toiled away into the early hours of the morning to defeat Constant Lestienne and reach the third round of the Australian Open.

Persistent rain in Melbourne meant the match, which was last on the schedule, did not begin until 10pm local time having been moved to an outside court.

There were a few more brief stops for drizzle, disruption by rowdy spectators and plenty of twists and turns before Norrie finally wrapped up a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (2) 6-3 victory over his unseeded French opponent at 1.28am.

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A handful of fans, some wrapped in blankets to keep out the unseasonal chill, stayed to the end as Norrie moved through to a third-round clash with talented young Czech Jiri Lehecka.

The late night meant a tricky few hours for the umpire, who sent three English spectators, beer cans in hand, from the court after abusing Norrie at the end of the first set and also told a fan off for loudly swearing during the fourth.

Norrie took it in good spirits, saying: “In the first set there was a lot of English fans. And they had the football chants going, which was good fun, and then obviously they got kicked out.

“I could still hear them in the second set. But it was a great atmosphere. It’s great obviously on one of the outside courts for them to stay around and support, especially playing so late and cold and everything, so it definitely spurred me on and got me through it, especially in that third set.”

Lestienne’s story is one of persistence, the 30-year-old Frenchman making his main draw debut at a grand slam after falling in qualifying 21 times.

Cameron Norrie strikes a forehand
Cameron Norrie strikes a forehand (Aaron Favila/AP)

He drove Norrie to distraction with his unconventional use of slice and trick shots, which included an attempted lob played through his legs when down set point in the opener.

The British number one smashed that one away but things became complicated in the second and he looked in real trouble when down 5-2 in the third.

But Norrie, seeded 11, has toughed out so many matches over the past two years and he fought his way back, winning the set on a tie-break, before finally overcoming Lestienne and his own frustration in the fourth.

“Nails conditions,” he said. “Completely different than what I’ve been playing in the last couple of weeks – freezing, windy and obviously it was tough playing him, he barely missed any first serves.

“It was swirling and he was one of the toughest guys out there to play today in those conditions, but I found a way in the end. For 90 per cent of that I was not there mentally so it was nice to pull it back.”