Cameron Norrie is tennis’ global citizen. The Briton was born in South Africa, lived in New Zealand until age 16, then moved to London. The lefty attended college at Texas Christian University in the United States and now, the 26-year-old has his sights set on a new destination: Turin, where the Nitto ATP Finals will be played from 14-21 November.
“I think even this late in the year, there are only three or four tournaments to go after this, and to even be in the conversation for Turin is massive for me,” Norrie told ATPTour.com. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that this late in the year that I’d be in the conversation, I would have taken that.”
Norrie has at least given himself an opportunity to enter the conversation by the end of the BNP Paribas Open, where on Thursday he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final. The World No. 26 had never advanced to a quarter-final at this level before arriving in Indian Wells.
By making the last four in the California desert, Norrie has 2,190 points in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, putting him in 12th place, 765 points behind Hubert Hurkacz, who currently holds the last qualifying spot. But if Norrie completes his dream run and triumphs in Indian Wells, he will only be 125 points behind Hurkacz in the Race.
“It’s incredible,” Norrie said. “Hopefully I keep pushing and hopefully I still have a chance.”
Norrie has already reached a milestone in Indian Wells. With his quarter-final victory, he is guaranteed to become the No. 1 Briton when the next FedEx ATP Rankings are released Monday, passing Daniel Evans.
“It was never really a goal of mine, but it’s definitely a great bonus to be British No. 1,” Norrie said during his press conference on Thursday. “I want to keep pushing. I think I’ve got a lot of things to improve on, but I think it’s one of those things you’ve got to enjoy.”
Norrie won his first ATP Tour title this year in Los Cabos. Photo Credit: Abierto Los Cabos
Perhaps what was most impressive was how Norrie handled what he called “definitely [the] biggest match of my career” in the quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman. The 21st seed not only won, but did so emphatically, 6-0, 6-2, against the gritty 11th seed.
“Once the match began, I was feeling very relaxed, and I was very in the present. I wasn’t really thinking too much and just [went] out and [played] like another match,” Norrie told the media. “Definitely more relaxed than all my other matches I have played this week, so I was very happy with how I handled everything.”
It was a workmanlike performance from Norrie, who gave his opponent no openings to turn around the match. The Briton simply maintained his physical game and forced Schwartzman to come up with something special.
It was the 45th win of Norrie’s season, and many of those victories have come from outworking his opponent. The lefty does not have Rafael Nadal’s forehand, Novak Djokovic’s backhand or John Isner’s serve. But he has other weapons: his physicality and toughness, according to former British No. 1 Mark Petchey.
“We’re seduced by visuals and we’re less romantic about things that we can’t see, and I think that’s the thing with Cam. There are a lot of good things that he does and a lot of things that as a tennis player on the other end of the court you find very difficult to get rhythm against,” Petchey said. “But ultimately, his point-in, point-out is probably as good as Rafa’s. His lung capacity is certainly as good as Rafa’s. All of that adds up to being an incredibly efficient and effective player and I think that not everybody could match his work rate.
“When you go out there, if you are not willing to go there you probably feel like you’re going to come off second best.”
Argentine Facundo Lugones, Norrie’s coach and former college teammate, said that his charge gained his endurance from going on long runs with his mom at a young age. Now, they focus on his strength and movement patterns.
“We never really work on endurance or outlasting someone, because he has that. I think it’s a good plus when you don’t need to worry about that,” Lugones told ATPTour.com in August. “You just have to worry about the quality and explosiveness on the physical side.”
View FedEx ATP Race To Turin (as of 4 October)
Norrie entered the season at No. 71 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and he had reached just one ATP Tour final. In 2021, the lefty has made five tour-level championship matches. According to Petchey, there has not been a drastic change in the Briton’s game, but little things such as more aggressive court positioning, taking the ball earlier and an improved ball toss.
“I think there have been a couple of things that are not insignificant, [but] they weren’t probably huge in people’s minds,” Petchey said. “They have turned out to be very significant [for Cam].”
Now Norrie has positioned himself as one of the best players in the world this year. And although he still has plenty of work to do in Indian Wells — starting with a semi-final clash against Grigor Dimitrov — to really insert himself into Turin contention, putting in the work has proven his specialty.
“It’s awesome for Cam. He’s one of the most authentic players out there in terms of his work rate. Everybody knows that, and he’s just kept working to get better and better,” Petchey said. “Obviously this year has been a big catalyst of all that work converging to give himself a shot to go to Turin. I hope he makes it. I’ve hoped since the US Open that he can get there.
“Obviously there are going to be a lot of players who are going to try to stop him, but I think he deserves it.”