The return of Cameron Norrie to Auckland for the ASB Classic will provoke mixed emotions for New Zealand tennis fans.

Norrie, who has represented Great Britain since 2013, is now ranked No 90 in the world, after a strong year where he reached a career-high No66.

The 23-year-old is a fine prospect, and in 2018 beat eight top-50 players, including Australian Nick Kygrios, Borna Cornic and two-time ASB Classic champion John Isner.

While most in the local tennis fraternity will be pleased to see a familiar face and have pride in what Norrie has achieved in the past few years, there's an ongoing sense of angst and regret about the circumstances of his departure from New Zealand.


It's arguably the greatest case of 'what might have been' for the sport in the past decade and remains a major black mark against the Tennis New Zealand coaches and administrators of the time.

They lacked the foresight to see Norrie's obvious potential and didn't provide the necessary support and funding, though they weren't helped by the typically blinkered approach from High Performance Sport New Zealand and their obsession with Olympic medals.

Born in South Africa, Norrie moved to New Zealand as a toddler. He thrived as a player on the local scene and reached the top 10 in the world as a junior.

But he got little support from Tennis NZ, and Norrie, who has a Scottish father and a Welsh mother, decided to change allegiance as a 16-year-old to Britain. Last February, Norrie made a spectacular Davis Cup debut for the United Kingdom against Spain, coming from two sets down to defeat then world No 23 Roberto Bautista-Agut, in what was his first match on clay for four years.

The 1.88m Norrie also reached the semifinals in Atlanta, beating three top-100 players, including Jeremy Chardy, on the way, and the last four in Lyon. Norrie also had his first taste of grand slam success last year, winning a round at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows.

Norrie has played in the ASB Classic qualifying on four previous occasions but has yet to feature in a main draw match. He faces New Zealand teenager Ajeet Rai in the first round of qualifying on Saturday.