Kiwi Norrie returns to NZ as genuine star

He's the South African-born tennis star who plays for Great Britain and turned pro after making All-American in US college tennis.

But nowhere does Cam Norrie feel more at home than in Auckland, where he was raised.

And that's why this week, while most of the men's top 20 will be resting up or playing exhibitions ahead of the Australian Open, Norrie will be going full tilt to win the ASB Classic.

"It's very special to be back in New Zealand," Norrie said on Sunday.

"When I was young, I went to the tournament every year, I was watching all the players, getting photos with all the players and looking up to them.

"It was the first time in my life when I was like, 'I want to be doing what these guys are doing'."

Norrie's family swapped Johannesburg for Auckland when he was a child, and on Sunday he revisited one of his old stomping grounds, Manukau Tennis Centre in the city's south.

"I played my first ever under-eights tournament here, seeing the memories and that the club hasn't change too much ... it's been really great," he said.

While Kiwi fans claim him as one of their own, Tennis NZ continue to kick itself over the inadequate support it offered to Norrie as a junior before his defection to the UK.

In 2013, he switched allegiances as a promising junior after his parents, both Brits, had to pay for travel to tournaments.

So this week, New Zealand's best player is 35-year-old Rubin Statham, the world No.466, rather than Norrie, the world No.14 who arrives in Auckland with wins over Rafael Nadal, Alex de Minaur and Taylor Fritz in the United Cup.

Norrie is yet to win his hometown tournament, coming closest in 2019 when he was losing finalist to Tennys Sandgren.

Since then, Norrie's star has risen and risen.

The 27-year-old broke through for a first Masters-level win at Indian Wells in 2021 and last year blazed a path to the Wimbledon semi-finals, his best result at a grand slam.

This time around, he returns to Auckland for the first time as a genuine star of the sport.

"In 2019 when I made the final was very special. I'm looking to go one more and win the title," he said, before ambitiously listing loftier goals.

"I made a semi-final (at Wimbledon last year), it was a great run, but I want to push for more," he said.

"I'm still pushing towards world No.1.

"I would like to be winning the slams ... obviously a long way to go but I'd like to think I've got a chance."

Norrie is the second seed in Auckland, behind world No.3 Casper Ruud, and will start his campaign on Wednesday against a qualifier.