Australian Open: Cameron Norrie knocked out after five-set defeat to Jiri Lehecka in Melbourne | tennis news

Cameron Norrie has been knocked out of the Australian Open after suffering a third-round defeat to Jiri Lehecka in a five-set thriller.

The British No 1 initially struggled in breezy conditions but looked to be on the right path when he opened up a two sets to one lead against the Czech youngster.

Lehecka battled back to level the contest and Norrie took a medical timeout for treatment to his left knee early in the fifth set, before eventually falling to a 6-7 (8) 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-4 defeat.

Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic reacts during his third round match against Cameron Norrie of Britain at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Jiri Lehecka made it through to the fourth round of the Australian Open

It will be a big disappointment for Norrie, who beat Lehecka on his way to the final of the ATP tournament in Auckland last week and had started the season by defeating Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz at the United Cup.

Norrie also played exhibitions during the off-season in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong, although denied that a hectic schedule contributed to his third-round loss.

“It’s the best preparation I’ve ever had to play matches,” said Norrie. “The best start to the year I’ve ever had. To play in the final in Auckland and I came in here with a load of confidence and I think it’s perfect to play matches before then.

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“Maybe I just peaked a little bit too early in United Cup. But now I think I came in here and gave myself the best chance. I think I didn’t play a very good match, and I almost won the match in five sets .

“I don’t think I would change my decision even with the result today. With the way I played, I still could have won today regardless of if I played Auckland or not. Ultimately I want to be playing my best tennis in the big events, and I think I gave myself the best chance.”

How Norrie was beaten in Melbourne

Czech tennis has largely been about a remarkable production line of female talent but Lehecka is one of a cohort of young men hoping to emulate the success of Tomas Berdych.

He possesses a big serve and forehand and had the better of the first set, forcing Norrie to save three break points, but could not convert a 6-4 lead in the tie-break.

MELBOURNE, VIC - JANUARY 20: Cameron Norrie of the United Kingdom celebrates during Round 3 of the 2023 Australian Open on January 20 2023, at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
Cameron Norrie was looking to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career

Norrie showed his competitive desire to save three set points, the first with a fine pass down the line, and clinched his second opportunity. But the 27-year-old was not playing well, missing time and again with his forehand, and Lehecka held onto an early break to claim the second set.

The Brit appeared to have found his range in the third, making only six unforced errors compared to 27 in the first two sets, but the momentum switched around again at the start of the fourth.

The 11th seed was in big trouble when he dropped serve again in the first game of the decider and called the trainer to have his left knee taped up.

Norrie fought hard to try to find a way back after going a double break down but he was unable to conjure the same magic that saw Andy Murray complete a remarkable fightback in Melbourne and Lehecka served the match out to love for the biggest moment of his young career.

“Obviously I’ve been playing a lot,” Norrie added. “We’ve been doing some stuff to try work on it [knee injury]but I don’t think it’s anything significant.

“I just need to keep getting better and work on a few lapses in concentration and keep working as hard as I can. I feel like my level, my tennis is still on an upward trajectory. It was a great start to the year. I ‘m just disappointed with the result obviously today.”

Lehecka will face Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last 16, who defeated Francisco Cerundolo 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-4 earlier in the day.

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