Cameron Norrie was left searching for answers after a dispiriting loss to Sebastian Korda in the first round of the Australian Open.
The young American is one of the game’s up-and-coming stars and this was a very tricky draw for the British number one, but a 6-3 6-0 6-4 scoreline left no room for finding the positives.
“I think that’s maybe my worst match in the last eight months or so,” said the 12th seed. “I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and just I was slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss.
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“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on. Korda was too good today. Any time I had a chance to come back, he served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me.
“I didn’t play well in really any big point today. That’s part of it and just a disappointing way to start the year with this match.”
Both men have recently tested positive for Covid-19 – Norrie in December and Korda on arrival in Australia.
But the American, son of former Melbourne champion Petr, was sharp from the start while Norrie found himself facing an uphill battle immediately and never recovered.
The 26-year-old had a phenomenal 2021, unexpectedly climbing to the verge of the top 10 and winning one of the biggest titles on the ATP Tour in Indian Wells.
His success has been based on a relentless physical and mental approach, but there were signs during the Davis Cup Finals at the end of November that his efforts had taken a toll and there has been precious little time to recover.
He insisted there were no mitigating factors, though, saying: “I played a lot of matches, but this is what we are paid to do and just not good enough.
“For the last year and a half, I have been playing great on the big points, in the big moments and I have been very quick around the court. Today I didn’t do any of that.”
He lost three matches to high-quality opponents at the ATP Cup to start the season and was unable to trouble Korda, who made the fourth round at Wimbledon last summer, on the new Kia Arena at Melbourne Park.
The 21-year-old is one of the new generation of players of 6ft 5in and above who move exceptionally well and he pressed Norrie straight away.
Korda broke serve at the start of every set, winning nine games in a row from the end of the first set to 2-0 in the third, and there was no way back for Norrie.
The British number one was raised in New Zealand and his family still live there but, although he is planning to take a little bit of time off prior to his next tournament in Rotterdam in three weeks, he will not head across the Tasman Sea.
There is a mandatory seven-day hotel quarantine for all arrivals into New Zealand, and Norrie said: “It’s difficult. It would be nice to see them. I missed them a lot. Last time I saw them was for the very first lockdown, so a year and a half. Hopefully they’ll come for the British summer.”