British No 1 Cameron Norrie thrashed in first round of Australian Open by Sebastian Korda

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Cameron Norrie shows his disappointment - REUTERS
Cameron Norrie shows his disappointment - REUTERS

Cameron Norrie runs 10,000 metres in just under 37 minutes. On that basis, the British No 1 could have notched at least a half-marathon in the time it took him to be eliminated from the Australian Open.

Playing the talented American Sebastian Korda - whose father Petr won this event in 1998 - Norrie never even threatened to settle and was eliminated in just 1hr 42min. This was not a match he will care to remember. It featured one particularly unfortunate passage, starting towards the end of the first set, when Korda reeled off nine games in a row.

This whole Australian swing has been miserable for Norrie, especially when you place it alongside his magnificent 2021. Last season, he accumulated a remarkable 52 ATP wins - the second-most on the tour - and won the so-called “fifth major” in Indian Wells. His year-end ranking, at No 12 in the world, was a spectacular achievement for a man whose main weapon is a massive pair of lungs.

But since arriving Down Under, Norrie has lost four straight matches, three of them in straight sets. He normally loves to drag his opponents into exhausting, heart-bursting rallies. But you can’t do that when you are coughing up errors and short balls with gruesome regularity.

Could this mini-slump be connected with the bout of Covid that Norrie suffered in mid-December? He rejected this idea. “Honestly, I feel good physically,” he said after his 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 defeat. “I don't know why I played the way I did today. For the last year and a half, I have been playing great on the big points, and I have been very quick around the court. Today I didn't do any of that and I didn't execute well. I just need to improve and get better.”

Norrie certainly wasted an opportunity here. He had landed in the top quarter of the draw, which lost its biggest gun when the Australian government deported world No 1 Novak Djokovic. Thanking their lucky stars, the other six seeds in this area all forged on into the second round.

So too did Rafael Nadal, who brushed the USA’s Marcos Giron out of his way for the loss of just seven games: 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. By contrast with Norrie’s struggles, Nadal has now won his first four matches of the season without dropping a set - a happy sequence that must feel especially satisfying after he had skipped the last four months of 2021 because a lingering foot injury.

“When you are getting a little bit older, all the comebacks are tougher,” Nadal said afterwards. “But here I am. I am super happy about all the work that we have done to try to be back.”

In the women’s event, defending champion Naomi Osaka roared off to a 5-0 lead in just a quarter of an hour against 20-year-old Colombian Camila Osorio, who seemed to be completely overwhelmed by the pace of the balls coming at her. Once Osorio had settled, however, this turned into a much closer affair. Osaka had not played a competitive match for more than four months, and she looked understandably rusty in her eventual 6-3, 6-3 victory.

At least Osaka looked to be enjoying herself, which made for a contrast with her hag-ridden demeanour at September’s US Open. At one stage, she mistimed a leap for an overhead, scoring just the faintest of touches on the ball. But rather than berate herself, she grinned broadly at her own error.

World No 1 and home hope Ashleigh Barty - who is on course to face Osaka as early as the fourth round - was completely untroubled as she despatched Lesia Tsurenko by a 6-0, 6-1 scoreline. Barty missed a match point in the penultimate game which would have given her a double-bagel and matched her 6-0, 6-0 defeat of Danka Kovinic in the first round here last year.

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