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Norrie: Aiming high, Brit breaks ground at Wimbledon

  • Matt Trollope

Cameron Norrie is talking the talk, and walking the walk. 

The British No.1 on Sunday powered into the Wimbledon quarterfinals with a straight-sets win over Tommy Paul, stepping beyond a goal he had openly shared with the media – and then realised.

In an inspiring example of the power of positive thinking, Norrie is riding a wave of home support as the last British player remaining in singles, and has a legitimate shot at a first Grand Slam semifinal.

“I've been saying it all of this year, I wanted to make the second week for the first time at a slam,” Norrie said, after recovering from two-sets-to-one down to beat Jaume Munar in the second round. 

“I think that was the perfect example today. Best-of-five set match. I don't see why not, I can play better (in) best-of-five. I think I used my physicality to my advantage.

“Another match under my belt on the grass. I'm feeling a bit more comfortable, moving a lot better.

“Especially playing on Court 1 was a lot of fun, really enjoyed that. Incredible atmosphere. Had my parents there, all my friends. So that was very cool.

“I think it's pretty sick, another opportunity to play a third-round match here at Wimbledon… I feel like my level is improving.”

There are countless examples of players struggling to rise to the occasion when the spotlight becomes brighter.

Perceived expectations from fans at players’ home tournaments can also be crushing, especially when players are asked – as Norrie was on Sunday – questions like: “You're carrying the entire hopes of around 65 million people. How do you feel going forward into the tournament with that responsibility on your shoulders?”

And then there is the phenomenon of a Grand Slam stumbling block; just asked Heather Watson, who has been contesting majors for 12 years before finally advancing to a fourth round, as she did earlier this week.

Or Iga Swiatek’s conqueror Alize Cornet, who needed 63 attempts to eventually reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal – which she achieved at Australian Open 2022 – despite five trips to the fourth round. 

RELATED: Cornet strikes again, ending Swiatek's streak

Norrie had played in the main draw of 18 Grand Slam tournaments dating back to 2017 yet had never before cleared the third round, falling at that stage on five occasions.

But since trailing Munar, he has not dropped a set, winning eight in a row.

That has sent the No.9 seed into the last eight, where he has set a winnable, yet tough, match-up with the unseeded David Goffin.

Goffin, the resurgent Belgian who was last a top-10 player in September 2020, has spent much of the 2022 season ranked outside the top 50. 

As Goffin has slipped in the rankings, Norrie’s trajectory has been the opposite.

He credits an improved forehand as a factor in his rise, a stroke which acts as a barometer for his game; he has reduced errors from that wing while committing to the stroke more and changing direction with it better – a more aggressive approach proving especially effective on grass.

“I was killing him with the forehand cross,” Norrie said when reflecting on his 6-4 7-5 6-4 win over Paul.

Beginning 2021 ranked outside the top 70, Norrie rose to the cusp of the top 10 thanks to a mighty season that culminated in victory at the prestigious Indian Wells Masters. 

RELATED: The rise of Cameron Norrie

He said he enjoys the challenge of maintaining steady progression and has carried that momentum into 2022, continuing to play with admirable belief which has translated to one of the sport’s grandest stages.

“At the beginning of the tournament, you guys were asking me: ‘You're British No.1, you got a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations on your shoulders’. For me to play the way that I did in all my matches so far means a lot,” Norrie said.

“Unfortunately, I'm the last (Briton) standing. But I think it's even more reason for everyone to get behind me. 

“Even the atmosphere was great today and definitely helped me get over the line there. Especially on that last game, I was obviously pretty nervous. I was serving for my first quarterfinal of a slam. I wanted to get it done there.

“It's great to be through to the quarters. But no reason to be satisfied. I want to keep pushing.”