US Open Britwatch: British men make history as quartet reach third round
British history was made at the US Open on Friday as Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans joined Andy Murray and Jack Draper in making it four men through to the third round for the first time since the start of professional tennis.
Not since 1933, when the tournament was known as the US National Championship and was played by fewer players from far fewer countries, has Britain had four men through to the last 32 in New York.
It is also only the second time in the open era that four British men have
reached the third round at any grand slam after Wimbledon 25 years ago.
Norrie and Evans are both seeds so were expected to make it through against Joao Sousa and James Duckworth, respectively.
Norrie rarely loses such matches these days and, although he had to save a set point in the third, he was a relatively comfortable 6-4 6-4 7-6 (4) winner over Portugal’s Sousa.
Evans looked be cruising against Australian Duckworth at two sets up before things got a little complicated but the 20th seed fought back from a break down in the fourth set to win 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4, running to the net in delight.
Another historic moment will come after the tournament when Draper will join Norrie, Evans and Murray in making it the first time since the formalisation of the rankings in 1973 that there are four British men in the top 50.
The 20-year-old began the season outside 250 but has climbed at a phenomenal rate and gave the most exciting demonstration yet of his potential by defeating sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets on Wednesday.
He is reaping the benefits of having more experienced players to learn from and look up to, and he said: “I think I’ve known my tennis ability has been good for a long time now.
“I’ve obviously had the privilege to hit with Andy, Cam, Dan. They’re top players in their own right. I know I could hold my own a while back with them.
“It’s more been about how am I going to cope mentally and physically at this level and do it consistently. That’s what top-tier tennis is all about, being able to be there every single point, compete with these guys.
“It’s mad really. My target at the start of the year was two things: stay injury-free and try to break the top 100. Now I’m going to be top 50.
“I’m obviously very proud of myself. It’s a nice thing for all my hard work that I’ve put in on a daily basis with the people that care about me and support me. Hopefully onwards and upwards from here.”
Draper is clearly now a danger to everyone in the draw and will fancy his chances of another upset when he takes on 27th seed Karen Khachanov on Friday.
Murray, meanwhile, faces a familiar rival in last year’s Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, who he has lost to twice on grass in the last two seasons.
The pair are regular practice partners and hit together before the tournament. Berrettini was impressed by Murray, saying: “I can say that the level is really high. He was playing well.
“Physically he’s well. Obviously it’s a different surface. We played on grass. Here it’s completely different. But it doesn’t matter. When you play Andy Murray, you’re playing Andy Murray. You have to play your best tennis.”
A permanent fixture courtside this week watching the British players, as at every slam, has been Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, and the Scot has a tricky decision on his hands when it comes to naming his final team for the group stage of the finals in Glasgow later this month.
Smith has already picked Norrie, Evans, Murray and world doubles number one Joe Salisbury and only has one space left, which looks to be between Draper and in-form doubles specialist Neal Skupski.
“It’s going to be difficult,” said Evans. “But that’s why Leon is paid the big bucks. But it’s an amazing problem to have.”
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