ritish No1 Cameron Norrie bowed out of the Australian Open in a third-round loss to one of the rising stars of the men’s game in Jiri Lehecka.
It was another five-set epic for a British player but this one not playing out into the early hours like Andy Murray had previously.
Norrie’s 6-7, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 defeat means that British hopes in the singles now rest with Murray and Dan Evans, both of whom play on Saturday.
No11 seed Norrie looked to be in the ascendancy when two sets to one up but his movement, such an asset in his game, looked curtailed as the match dragged on and the trainer came out to treat his left knee after losing the fourth set.
He continued to push Lehecka but the 21-year-old held his nerve to deservedly serve out the match in just over three hours.
It was a second meeting between the pair in 2023 having been drawn to face each other in the opening round of the ASB Classic in Auckland. That one went the distance with Norrie winning.
But after Lehecka gained revenge, the Czech player said: “The only thing I learned from that match was to never give up. I’m happy that I’m through.”
Norrie’s experience and resilience showed in the opening set when he saved two set points, including one with a perfect forehand pass, on the tiebreak to take it 10-8.
His level dropped in the second set as it had in the previous round for Lehecka to claw his way back into the match before the Briton moved into a two set to one lead.
Normally, Norrie would have stretched out his advantage but he was immediately broken by his younger opponent, who looked far from a player who had never made it past the first round of a Grand Slam prior to Melbourne.
Norrie struggled under the barrage of shots from the other side of the net and seemingly his knee, which brought out a rare visit from the trainer for one of the fittest players on tour.
Hopes that the 27-year-old could pull himself back into the match were undone by being broken again in the decider and, while he continued to push his opponent, Lehecka took the win.
Murray, meanwhile, was back on site at 11.30am barely seven hours after his victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis and had a 20-minute warm-up with coach Ivan Lendl before packing up.