Cameron Norrie suffered an agonising end to his Australian Open run as he was pipped in a fifth-set tie-break by Alexander Zverev after a terrific fourth-round tussle.
The British number one broke new ground with a brilliant attacking display to defeat Casper Ruud on Saturday and again showed the new dimensions he has added to his game to push the sixth seed all the way.
Norrie, who had not won a set in their four previous meetings, twice came from behind to force a decider but it is Zverev who moves through to the quarter-finals after a 7-5 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6 (10/3) victory.
An epic five-set battle ends in narrow defeat for Cam Norrie
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 22, 2024
Norrie will leave Australia, though, knowing that he can mix it with the best players in the world on the biggest stage and with confidence fully restored after a shaky second half of last season.
The match was briefly interrupted in the third set by a protester, who threw ‘Free Palestine’ flyers onto the court from the front row of Margaret Court Arena before being forcibly escorted away by two spectators.
The scenes were reminiscent of Wimbledon last summer, when Just Stop Oil protesters threw jigsaw pieces and confetti onto the court during two matches, although the leaflets were swiftly cleared here and play quickly resumed.
Norrie’s tactics against Ruud came as no surprise to Zverev, who spent the off-season practising with the British number one in Monte-Carlo.
There were few rallies of any kind in the first set, with serve dominating until Norrie, who was trying to beat a top-10 opponent at a slam for the first time, was broken at 5-5.
Zverev immediately came under pressure on serve for the first time but saved a break point with a forehand onto the line, and looked to have taken control of the contest when he broke again to lead 3-2 in the second.
However, Norrie played what must be one of the best returning games of his career to hit straight back, finishing it off with a zinging backhand cross-court winner.
And Norrie was not finished there, the 28-year-old showing his new-found aggression and willingness to mix up his tactics to pile more pressure on Zverev in his next service game.
The German saved two break points but then mis-hit a forehand on the third and suddenly Norrie was serving for the set.
It was far from straightforward for the 19th seed but he saved four break points before taking it, fortuitously, when a forehand hit the top of the net and dropped over.
A poor service game at 1-2 in the third set was enough for Zverev to take it and though Norrie pushed hard at the beginning of the fourth set, Zverev managed to save two break points in the second game.
Cam Norrie, that is superb 😤
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 22, 2024
However, the Olympic champion was powerless to stop Norrie forcing a decider, the 28-year-old creating two set points at 4-5 and taking the first with a delicate half-volley.
Norrie was managing to bully Zverev, one of the most powerful players on tour, at times from the baseline, while his drop shots and short angled slices kept the German guessing.
They exchanged breaks of serve at the start of the fifth set while Norrie survived a tense game at 3-3, saving three more break points.
Both men managed to hold serve through to a first-to-10-points tie-break but there Norrie’s resistance ran out, with Zverev clinching the win after four hours and five minutes to end British interest in the singles.