Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper win as Emma Raducanu pulls out of exhibition match

Cameron Norrie celebrates
Image caption,Cameron Norrie has won five titles on the ATP Tour

By Harry Poole

BBC Sport

British number one Cameron Norrie made a winning start at the Auckland Classic and Jack Draper produced a stunning comeback to progress in Adelaide.

Norrie, runner-up last year in the city where he grew up, defeated Frenchman Luca Van Assche 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-1.

Draper survived two match points to beat Miomir Kecmanovic in three sets – but Dan Evans lost to Alexander Bublik.

Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu withdrew from a second exhibition match, days before the Australian Open starts on Sunday.

Raducanu, who pulled out of a charity match in Melbourne on Tuesday, will no longer play 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva at the Kooyong Classic on Thursday as she continues to feel some soreness in her first weeks back on tour.

That is not expected to affect the 2021 US Open champion’s participation at the Australian Open, where she is set to make her Grand Slam return after missing much of 2023 following ankle and wrist surgeries.

There were wins for Britons Harriet DartFrancesca Jones and Oliver Crawford in Australian Open qualifying.

But Heather Watson and Jan Choinski saw their hopes of competing at the first major of the year ended.

Norrie begins Auckland title bid as Draper edges epic

An emotional Norrie was close to tears after losing his second Auckland final to France’s Richard Gasquet one year ago.

The 28-year-old, who has a Scottish dad and Welsh mum, was born in South Africa and brought up in New Zealand – the nation he represented as a junior.

Also beaten by American Tennys Sandgren in the 2019 title decider, the world number 19 was made to work hard at the start of his latest bid for a trophy he would like to win so dearly.

Norrie missed a match point in the tie-break of a second set edged by teenager Van Assche, who then broke at the start of the decider.

But Norrie responded emphatically to that setback and closed out the match in impressive fashion by winning six consecutive games.

“I think it was exactly what I needed. I had to fight hard and the crowd got behind me,” said Norrie, who plays Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo in the last eight.

“It’s the match I needed before Australia. This is a special tournament for me.”

Draper, 22, had to come through a serious examination but displayed great endurance as he outlasted the higher-ranked Kecmanovic to set up a quarter-final against American top seed Tommy Paul.

After Draper conceded a tight first set when he lost serve in the 12th game, the second continued into a tie-break in which the 55th-ranked Serb rallied from 5-2 down to reach match point.

But, on the brink of defeat when trailing 8-7 and then 9-8, world number 62 Draper clinched his fourth set point to force a decider.

Another recovery was required as that too went the distance, with Draper heading for defeat at 4-1 down in the concluding tie-break.

The Briton won five of the next six points to reach match point for the first time and he closed out an epic contest at the third opportunity to win a 5-7 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (9-7) after three hours and 39 minutes.

However, British number two Evans was unable to join Draper in the last eight after losing 4-6 6-2 6-1 to Kazakh eighth seed Bublik.

Making his return from injury in Adelaide following the calf tear he sustained in Vienna in October, Evans, who impressed in his opening win on Tuesday, made a promising start to take the first set against the world number 31.

But the match unravelled rapidly for the 40th-ranked Evans after he fell a break of serve down in the second set, with Bublik cruising to victory by winning 10 of the last 11 games.

Dart, Jones & Crawford win in Melbourne

Dart was among five Britons to begin their bid for a place in the Australian Open main draw on Wednesday, after rain prevented any matches taking place at the start of the week.

The British number three, ranked 114th, defeated Italy’s Nuria Brancaccio 6-2 7-6 (7-4) and will face Ukraine’s Yulia Starodubtseva in the second of three qualifying rounds.

Jones also progressed with a 6-2 6-4 win over Margaux Rouvroy of France to set up a meeting with German teenager Ella Seidel, but Watson lost 6-4 6-3 to Swiss player Lulu Sun.

In the men’s draw, Crawford, who last week switched from representing the United States, defeated Belarusian Ilya Ivashka 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Italian Francesco Passaro is up next for Crawford, who joins Billy Harris and Ryan Peniston in the second round.

However, Choinski is out following a 6-4 6-0 loss to Lebanese-German player Benjamin Hassan.

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