Alex de Minaur falls to Britain’s Cameron Norrie at United Cup

Alex de Minaur's lightning speed represents a huge advantage over the leg-sore Djokovic. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

Alex de Minaur's lightning speed represents a huge advantage over the leg-sore Djokovic. Photo: AAP

Alex de Minaur’s Australian Open preparation has hit an early snag with a decisive 6-3 6-3 loss to Britain’s Cameron Norrie on day one of the United Cup in Sydney.

Nick Kyrgios’ late withdrawal from the new mixed-gender team tournament meant de Minaur had less than 36 hours’ notice he would be playing the British world No.14 at Ken Rosewall Arena on Thursday night.

The Sydney crowd made its feelings known; one spectator wore a Kyrgios T-shirt with a clown wig and make-up, while others held signs referencing Kyrgios’ scratching.

Despite the last-minute change, world No.24 de Minaur would’ve liked his chances of causing an upset, having defeated Norrie in the pair’s only previous meeting this April.

Both men came into Thursday night’s match on the back of career-best years and de Minaur had the extra motivation of wanting to bounce back at home after Australia’s loss in the Davis Cup final last month.

But Norrie shut the local crowd out to claim early momentum.

De Minaur failed to convert three consecutive break points early in the first set and was made to pay by Norrie, who clawed back to win that game and then break his rival.

“Alex had that early chance and wasn’t able to take it,” said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt.

“But then Cam did very little wrong from start to finish. It just wasn’t our night tonight.”

From there, Norrie kept troubling the Australian with his powerful forehand to take the first set inside 40 minutes.

De Minaur’s serve packed a punch – his first of the night slammed into the net and brought the chair umpire down to conduct some emergency repairs.

But Norrie’s precision from the baseline was unmatched and when the Brit won a rally to break de Minaur a second time and go up 3-2 in the second set, the Australian had all the work to do.

He came close to his own first break point of the night in the next game but could not convert on deuce as Norrie opened up a 1-0 lead for Great Britain in 91 minutes.

“It’s never easy coming up here in Australia and playing Alex de Minaur,” Norrie said.

“He’s such a great competitor. It was the perfect match for me to start off 2023. The atmosphere was great.”

De Minaur said: “I made a couple of errors in certain areas and just didn’t play my best overall tennis.

“It probably wasn’t my best performance but we’ve got lots to look forward to.”

Things won’t get any easier for de Minaur, who faces reigning Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal in his second singles match of the tournament on Monday.

The second match on Thursday night pits Australian world No. 772 Zoe Hives against Britain’s Katie Swan, who is ranked No.145.

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