Cameron Norrie sunk to a disappointing defeat to Marin Cilic in the last 32 of the Italian Open in Rome.
Ninth seed Norrie had admitted to feeling “very nervous” at the start of his previous match in the Masters 1000 event – a win over Italian wildcard Luca Nardi – and it seemed to be the same story on Grand Stand Arena on Wednesday night as Cilic stormed into a 5-2 lead in the first set.
But whether it was being so far down in the score or something else Norrie suddenly mounted a remarkable comeback, taking the next five games to steal the set 7-5.
Cilic was stunned but to his credit he broke twice in the following set – in games six and eight respectively – to take it to a final set.
And emboldened by his comeback, Cilic continued his good form and for the third set in a row, got into a comfortable lead at 5-0.
Norrie was looking out of sorts – and solutions – with Cilic’s serve helping him look impenetrable and win plenty of free points. That the Croatian ended up winning 76% of points on his first serve showed how difficult Norrie had found it to get break point chances.
And though the Briton belatedly got on the scoreboard and avoid a bagel, Cilic was able to get the solitary game he required to reach the last 16 in the Italian capital, where he will face Chilean Cristian Garin.
It’s back to the drawing board ahead of Roland-Garros for Norrie, who has had a mixed season on the clay and would’ve hoped for more than two matches in preparation for the second Grand Slam of the year in Paris.