Cameron Norrie’s new attacking game style against Casper Ruud came as a surprise to many, but not to his next opponent Alexander Zverev.
The British number one eschewed his usual grinding baseline game, making frequent forays to the net, and his reward was the best grand slam victory of his career.
Through to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time, Norrie will try to break more new ground with victory over a top 10 player at a major.
Zverev had a sneak peek at Norrie’s new tactics when they trained together during pre-season and the German said: “I actually thought he played exactly what he was working on in the off-season.
“We obviously spent the off-season together in Monaco, so I’ve seen him every single day. This is exactly what he was working on.”
He continued: “When you think of Cameron Norrie, you normally think of somebody who grinds a lot, a big fighter. But in the off-season he really worked on his game and he really worked on the aggressive style of play. He really worked on coming forward.
“It was very noticeable in December, and you can see it on the court now. The work is paying off for him.”
Having struggled during the second half of last season, Norrie appears rejuvenated and he said: “Even just being in the second week for the first time in Australia, never done that. It means a lot to do that and start the year playing some good tennis.
“I think it just helped having a good break and a really good off-season to put a lot of time on the court and get better as a player.
“I think it just comes down to how can you play the biggest points the best and feeling calm and feeling good about yourself. I have done that, and I was feeling that coming into the season.
Norrie will certainly have to adjust the game plan for his clash with sixth-ranked Zverev, who has made a strong return to the top of the sport following a serious ankle injury in 2022.
The British number one relentlessly attacked Ruud’s backhand but Zverev has one of the best in the business, while putting the German under pressure on serve will be a challenge.
Much of the attention on Zverev this fortnight has been regarding his forthcoming court case to contest domestic abuse charges, which he denies, but whatever the rights and wrongs of his position on the ATP Player Council or continued participation on the tour, he remains an exceptional player.
He has beaten Norrie on each of the four previous occasions they have played without dropping a set.
“I sat down with (coach) Facu (Lugones) and watched the matches with Casper back, and we talked a lot about what wasn’t working,” said Norrie, who had also lost three times to Ruud prior to Saturday’s victory.
“I think there will be a lot of things in there with Zverev. The last few times I have played him, it’s kind of been a similar match every time, a tough set and then he’s run away with it.”
Zverev is taking nothing for granted, saying of Norrie: “He’s playing great tennis, beating Casper. I think Casper was undefeated in Australia so far this year, also playing great tennis. I’m looking forward to a tough match.
“I think everybody is always improving. Everybody is always trying new things. I think with Cam this year, you definitely see that. I’m just going to try to keep going for it and just try to extend my lead.”