Britain’s interest in singles at the Australian Open ended with a spirited defeat for Cameron Norrie against Rafael Nadal in the third round.
For the second time in the last three grand slams, 69th-ranked Norrie found himself the only British representative in the last 32 of the main draws.
He faced a formidable task against second seed Nadal but acquitted himself very well, pushing the Spaniard before falling to a 7-5 6-2 7-5 defeat.
Norrie, 25, had not won a main-draw match at Melbourne Park prior to his first-round victory over compatriot Dan Evans, while this was his first career meeting against one of the big three of men’s tennis.
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Nadal won the first six points but Norrie settled into the match well thereafter, saving break points in his first two service games before forging ahead with a break of his own for 3-2.
Nadal‘s back issue did not cause him any major problems during his first two matches, but he was struggling to hit the ball cleanly here and making some unexpected errors.
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Spain’s Rafael Nadal shakes hands with Britain’s Cameron Norrie
He hit straight back with a break to love, and Norrie could not maintain the high level he had produced in the 12th game to take the Spaniard to a tie-break.
Nadal, who had won 103 of his previous 117 tour-level clashes with fellow left-handers, dominated the second set and looked to be pulling away but Norrie dug in brilliantly at the start of the third.
Nadal looked a little agitated as the set headed towards a tie-break, but again Norrie could not quite get across the line as the second seed clinched victory after two hours and 14 minutes.
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