Cameron Norrie knows he has a better chance of progress at the French Open now but there is a part of him that is disappointed he will not be facing Nick Kyrgios.
The Australian withdrew from the tournament on Friday citing illness and British number two Norrie will instead take on unknown French qualifier Elliot Benchetrit.
“I think it would have been pretty entertaining, for sure, but it would have been tough to focus,” said Norrie of taking on Kyrgios.
Kyrgios’ headline-grabbing antics have been notable even by his own standards over the past couple of weeks.
After branding Novak Djokovic “cringeworthy” and Rafael Nadal “super salty” in an interview with the No Challenges Remaining podcast, Kyrgios was defaulted from the Italian Open in Rome after throwing a chair across the court and then said the French Open “sucks” compared to Wimbledon.
Casper Ruud, Kyrgios’ opponent in Rome, claimed the Australian should be banned for six months, but Norrie is broadly supportive of Kyrgios.
Norrie said: “I don’t agree with that at all. I think that was pretty harsh of him to celebrate how he did after getting a default when Nick could have easily turned up on the day and chopped him probably in straight sets.
“I think he’s great. There’s endless things on Twitter about the way he’s acting and stuff. I’m not saying it’s correct but I like that he’s his own person. I think he does attract a lot of fans and he is good for tennis in a way.”
Norrie arrived in Paris at a career high of 41 in the world rankings after some encouraging results on clay, including qualifying and reaching the second round in Rome.
It is only just over a year since Norrie produced one of the more remarkable Davis Cup debuts by defeating Roberto Bautista Agut from two sets down in Spain in one of his first professional matches on clay.
But the 23-year-old has been hitting milestones at a seriously impressive rate ever since turning professional two years ago and is now within touching distance of becoming the top-ranked British man.
He is 10 places below Kyle Edmund, who is defending a lot of points from his excellent 2018 season but has struggled this year and will hope to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat when he faces talented Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the first round.
Not that Norrie is bothered by his domestic status, saying: “I’d prefer for Kyle to be doing better.
“It’s nice to have other British guys pushing each other. I know Evo’s pushed me up and I’m sure Kyle’s going to find his level at some point. It’s just a matter of time. I really don’t care about being British number one at all.”
Edmund’s year began with a knee injury that all but ruled him out until the end of February and he has won only five tour-level matches since, the last one in early April.
He hung on to a seeding but the draw could have been significantly kinder than pitting him against London-based Chardy, who is ranked only nine places lower.
Edmund remains level-headed, though, saying: “You just keep going. You do things that are rational, things that make sense. What’s going to be the best thing to get me out of this? What are my strengths?
“Start with them, and then once things get better you can look at finer details. Stick to basics, compete really hard, fight, accept that not everything’s going to go exactly how you’d like it.
“But you’re a professional tennis player, you don’t forget to play tennis. My level has not been as high as I would have liked it to be. These things happen, have happened in the past, and I’ve got through it. I would hope that would happen again and I will have another good run at some point.”
- Press Association