Cameron Norrie: How British player became a Wimbledon semi-finalist

Cameron Norrie is the ninth seed at Wimbledon
Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.

Cameron Norrie has become just the fourth British man to reach the Wimbledon-semi-finals in the Open era.

We take a look at the journey that has taken him there.

New Zealand’s loss is Britain’s gain

Norrie, who has a Scottish dad and Welsh mum, was born in South Africa and brought up in New Zealand.

As a youngster, Norrie represented New Zealand but despite reaching 10 in the world junior rankings he was overlooked for funding and, at the time, his mum said the family had been “very disappointed” with Tennis New Zealand’s support of him.

So at 17, the left-hander decided to play for Britain because of the better funding opportunities.

New Zealand newspapers have often called him “the one who got away” – an observation that has only got louder with every new milestone in Norrie’s career.

It will be deafening if he goes all the way at Wimbledon.

Living a ‘normal life’ at college

When Norrie made his professional debut in 2017 as a 22-year-old, he had three years of college life studying sociology at Texas Christian University behind him.

He told BBC Sport that it had given him the chance to mature and “have more of a normal life”, rather than going down the route of travelling the world by himself at the age of 17 on one of the tours.

He said college tennis allowed him to have “a decent social life” and interests outside tennis, which gave him a good balance and a greater sense of perspective.

That is not to say tennis is not his number one priority now – he is clear that it is, telling reporters after his quarter-final win that he puts it first and has not had a holiday for a long time.

But he says it was his time in college that has made him “pretty focused and pretty composed” on the court. And he is, this is not a racquet-smashing player.

The moped crash that was the ‘turning point’

While at college, he had a moped crash that he says was a “turning point” in his life.

“In the fall of my sophomore year at TCU, after a standard Thursday night out at the bars, I made my way back to my dorm,” he wrote on “We all had a pretty big night and definitely a couple too many.

“I decided to drive my moped to my girlfriend’s place, who I was dating at the time. I didn’t even make it 20 metres when I ended up falling off and bashing my chin on the steering wheel. I left the moped on the ground surrounded by blood everywhere.”

He told British media at Wimbledon this week that there had been a realisation that he was “not making the best decisions” and was going out more than he should have been.

“After that the coaches really kicked me into gear and I was definitely more professional,” he said. “I grew up a lot after that.”

‘Impressive’ Davis Cup debut and first ATP final

Norrie gave “one of the most impressive debuts of all time” in Great Britain’s Davis Cup defeat by Spain in February 2018, according to former captain John Lloyd.

He came from two sets down to stun Roberto Bautista Agut – who was ranked 91 places above him – to record Britain’s only win in the tie they lost 3-1, with Norrie also taking a set off Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

They were his first professional matches on red clay, and the first time he had gone beyond three sets.

Less than a year later, Norrie reached his first ATP Final – at the Auckland International in New Zealand (of all places) in January 2019.

Then ranked 93rd in the world, he was beaten in straight sets by American Tennys Sandgren in the city where he grew up.

It would be another two and a half years before he won his first ATP title, which came in the final of the Los Cabos Open in Mexico.

Hitting the big time – Indian Wells title

cameron norrie
Cameron Norrie beat Nikoloz Basilashvili to win the 2021 Indian Wells title

Norrie missed the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 to concentrate on the ATP Tour, a decision which reaped its rewards in October when he became the first Briton to win the prestigious Indian Wells title.

The Masters 1,000 event is one of the biggest titles in tennis and the victory propelled him to British number one, lifted him to a then career-high 16th in the world, and put him in the running to reach the elite season-ending ATP Finals.

He had started 2021 ranked 74th in the world but made six finals and won two titles to end the year ranked 12th. He qualified as second alternate for the ATP Finals and made his debut in the event after two withdrawals, losing in three sets to Norway’s Casper Ruud and in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.

His good form carried on into 2022 as he won two more titles, resulting in him breaking into the world’s top 10 in April.

Grand Slam breakthrough

For all his growing success on the ATP Tour, he had been unable to translate that into a deep run at a Grand Slam, which is why he has perhaps been flying under the radar for the once-a-year Wimbledon audience.

He had reached the third round at the Australian, French and US Opens in the past couple of years, and also the same stage at Wimbledon in 2021, but until this year had never made the second week of a major.

He was beaten by Roger Federer at the All England Club last year, while he also lost to Rafael Nadal at the French Open and Australian Open that year.

This time he comes up against the other member of the sport’s ‘big three’ in Djokovic, who is the defending champion. But it is in the last four and, after his emotional quarter-final victory over David Goffin, his profile has rocketed.

Fitness is his ‘main asset’

Norrie has earned a reputation as one of the fittest players on the tour.

He has a 10k personal best time of around 36 minutes, according to Runner’s World, and his Argentine coach Facundo Lugones has said his “main asset on the physical side is his endurance”.

Speaking on Wednesday, Lugones said Norrie can push his heart-rate to 200 beats per minute and maintain that “for six, seven minutes, no problem”.

“He can play not only for a couple hours, but four hours and maintain the same level of physicality,” Lugones told atptour.comexternal-link last year. “Some players can be really physical, but only for two hours. I think he has the endurance to do it for many hours and consecutive days, back to back to back.”

Norrie has even said he will back his legs “against anyone, even Rafa [Nadal]”

Consistency and stability for coach and ‘chicken’

Lugones, who has been with Norrie for seven years, said that he and Norrie have “a great relationship” and that they are “very respectful of each other”, adding: “Off the court we talk about anything. We’re friends. When we’re in tennis, really, really professional, very serious.”

Not always serious, though. Lugones used to refer to Norrie as his “chicken” and explained why.

“That was a long time ago. In Argentina when you’re taking care of someone, you call them like your chicken, like you’re taking care of him,” he said.

“When I started traveling with him, all my friends would ask me, ‘How is your chicken doing?’ in Spanish. That’s why I call him like that. That’s kind of the reason about that.

“He became a dog now. He’s not a chicken any more.”

Win in front of royalty

Norrie was emotional following his victory over Goffin – and his family and those watching on Court One joined in with the tears.

If the British public was not too aware of Norrie until that point, then that was the moment he endeared himself, and all under the eyes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge too.

There was a peak TV audience of 4.5 million for the Goffin match, which is not bad when you consider the UK chancellor and health secretary both resigned during it.

Even more eyes are likely to be on him when he faces Djokovic on Friday.

Around the BBC iPlayer bannerAround the BBC iPlayer footer

Share this post

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *