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Cameron Norrie: Wimbledon semi-finalist unrecognised by barman but now watched by royalty

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.

Shortly before he started the British grass season, Cameron Norrie told an amusing anecdote when asked about how he would deal with the increased scrutiny home players receive during Wimbledon.

“I was sitting in a restaurant recently, at the bar, and the bartender goes to me ‘do you watch much tennis?'” the British men’s number one said.

“I was in dressed in my casual clothes and said ‘I watch a little bit’.

“He said ‘you look exactly like this player, Cameron Norrie’.

“I was, like, ‘Oh really, OK’. I played along, didn’t say anything and on the way out I said ‘I am Cameron Norrie’. He couldn’t believe it.”

It is unlikely the bartender will make the same mistake after world number 12 Norrie reached the Wimbledon semi-finals, where he will play defending champion Novak Djokovic on Friday.

The 26-year-old left-hander has enjoyed a rapid rise up the ATP rankings in the past couple of years, but was still to make a real breakthrough at one of the sport’s four major tournaments.

Success at these events really cements a British player in the public conscience – particularly Wimbledon – and Norrie’s quarter-final victory over Belgium’s David Goffin was another moment which will mark him out to the nation.

While national recognition or celebrity status is not Norrie’s main goal, he says he is “enjoying and embracing” the attention that comes with being one of Britain’s biggest hopes at the All England Club.

A fervent atmosphere built on Court One during his five-set comeback win against Goffin, culminating in a electrifying chant of ‘Norrie! Norrie! Norrie!’ moments after he clinched victory.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were among the 11,000 or so fans, with Prince William’s facial expressions particularly summing up the emotions of a nation willing their man over their line.

“I saw them at the end there. So that’s obviously very special to be playing in front of them, and obviously they had more interest in my match, which is pretty cool,” said Norrie, who became uncharacteristically teary during his on-court interview.

“At the end of the fourth set, I really got the crowd involved and they were behind me every point.

“I think it frustrated David a little bit. Maybe that was the difference.”

How a multi-cultural journey is thriving in London

Norrie’s journey began in Johannesburg and, after moving to Auckland as a child and then studying in Texas, has since made a home in London.

With a Welsh mother and a Scottish father, he was always destined to represent the nation despite retaining a hint of a Kiwi accent.

His parents, microbiologists David and Helen, have been a driving force in his life and watched proudly on Court One as the family shared his finest moment together.

“I think every match that I’ve won this week my mum has cried,” Norrie said.

The couple still live in New Zealand and missed much of his recent rise in the flesh because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But they have been following their son around the European clay and grass tournaments since flying over to Rome in May.

“It’s very cool to have them here watching. It is very rare for them to be here and watching, especially over the last couple of years,” Norrie added.

“The matches are getting bigger and the moments are getting more special.”

His sister Bronwyn, who lives in London, has been among his loved ones watching on court, along with his old landlady, Linda, and friends from his university days.

One of the reasons why Norrie has perhaps not come to the attention as much as a British number one might is a calm and quiet demeanour that means he does not seek the limelight away from the court.

During his free time he loves relaxing at the beach, or in a park near to his west London home, with his girlfriend Louise – an interior designer – or those in his close-knit circle of pals.

“I really feel good in London,” he said earlier this fortnight.

“It’s good for the tennis. It’s a good base and I really enjoy spending time here.

“I’ve got a good group of friends now in London and I like practising at the National Tennis Centre, helping all the younger Brits out as well.”

Why did the breakthrough at a Slam take so long?

Norrie switched allegiance to Great Britain as a 17-year-old in 2013

Going deep at a Grand Slam has been one of the left-hander’s major targets in recent times.

Being pitched against two of the sport’s all-time greats at the third-round stage on three occasions last year did not help his cause.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal outclassed Norrie with straight-set wins in both Melbourne and Paris, while Switzerland’s Roger Federer had too much nous for him at Wimbledon.

After losing to Russian Karen Khachanov at the same stage in the French Open last month, it was the fourth time in six majors where he had fallen in the last 32.

Now he has made the Wimbledon semi-finals after a couple of seasons in which he has won his first ATP Tour title, claimed a first Masters title and cracked the world’s top 10.

Asked about his career aspirations after leaving university, he said: “I didn’t think straight out of college, I’m going to be in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam and setting crazy goals like that.

“I think it’s great to do that but I think at the time it was pretty unrealistic.

“So I think I’ve done a good job to keeping expectations low and then fulfilling and maximizing the talent that I’ve got.

“I think I’ve still got a lot of things I can improve on, which is exciting.”

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