Cameron Norrie maintained his push to break into the world’s top 10 but it was a far from straight forward win over fellow British starlet Jack Draper.
The world number 12 needed to lean upon all of his experience to see off the wild card’s challenge with a 7-6 (5) 6-4 triumph in two hours and three minutes.
Norrie will now meet Hugo Gaston in round three following the Frenchman’s surprise victory against 20th seed John Isner.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the year,” he said during an on-court interview with Amazon Prime. “I was able to get a good training block in and get some momentum. I feel good here in America and I like the conditions.
I’VE JUST GOT TO KEEP TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING AND HOPEFULLY I CAN TICK THAT (TOP) 10 BOX VERY SOON. THERE’S A LONG WAY TO GO BUT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THE REST OF THE TOURNAMENT.
Asked about the future of Draper, he said: “It’s tough playing my first round here. I had a little bit of nerves. I was a big favourite against a young Brit. I’m excited to see how he’s going to do in the future.
IF HE CAN PLAY WEEK IN, WEEK OUT, HE’S GOING TO HAVE A VERY, VERY GOOD CAREER AND I THINK TOP 10 FOR ME.
He added: “It’s not easy against Jack. He’s such a big talent and hits the ball big on both sides. The court surprised me a little bit as it was very slow out there. I managed to play the bigger points a little bit better than he did and that was the difference in the end.”
Draper came into the showdown with the British No.1 on the back of an excellent start to 2022, including three Challenger titles and a first ever Masters 1000 victory over Gilles Simon in the previous round.
The 20-year-old is clearly full of confidence right now and gave a real cameo of his potential in an epic 37-shot rally in the opening game in what was the first of a series of lung-bursting exchanges from the baseline.
It was an area Norrie was more assured in during the early stages and he clinched a clinical break to love to lead 4-2 when Draper double faulted.
The number 10 seed appeared to be in complete control but blew a set point serving for the opener at 5-3 and coughed up a horribly timed double fault of his own on break back point to gift the younger Brit a lifeline.
Draper duly seized it and held firm to force a tie break, but could not cap a fine fight back as Norrie raised his level to take it 7-5 and edge a hard-fought one hour and nine-minute set.
The world number 146, who is currently fourth in the ATP NextGen race to Milan, refused to allow the disappointment to affect him and backed up a love hold by cranking up the heat on the Norrie serve in Game 2. Indeed, the British No.1 needed to demonstrate all of his resilience to fend off three break points and scramble on to the board.
Draper had grown into the contest and was proving to be a tricky opponent for Norrie, who is regarded by many to have one of the more awkward styles to compete against on tour.
However, Norrie held firm during the moments when the British No.5 was on top and then grabbed his opportunity to break and lead 4-3. Draper could not hide his frustration and he received a code violation before channelling the disappointment in the right way. He smothered the Norrie serve in a 10-minute game but could not convert any of his four break back points and the 26-year-old wriggled free to consolidate.
Once again Draper posed a serve-out question but this time Norrie obliged on his second match point to progress and avoid a potential banana skin.