One of the fastest-rising players in professional tennis this year has been Cameron Norrie, who began 2021 ranked 74th yet just 10 months later had vaulted to world No.12.
The 26-year-old Brit wasn’t a completely unknown force before this year; he has been a top-100 player since 2018 and briefly cracked the top 50 in April 2019.
But he never rose higher than No.41, and until this year he had appeared in just one ATP final (Auckland 2019).
In an incredible turnaround, Norrie won more than 50 singles matches in 2021 and advanced to six finals, winning two — including the “fifth major” at Indian Wells in October.
“I think I've just been working hard and progressing nicely, making small improvements in my game and in my ranking,” Norrie explained after winning Indian Wells, a result that boosted him inside the top 20.
“I've got a lot of great people around me (who are) wanting the best for me. We're taking care of all the little details on the court, off the court, and we all have the same goal in mind.
“When that all comes together … weeks like this can happen.”
With that, we go back to January, where the wheels of Norrie’s breakout season began turning in the United States.
12 January 2021: Advances to Delray Beach semifinals
Setting the tone for the season that was to follow, Norrie reached the semifinals in his very first tournament of the year. He beat Frances Tiafoe in three sets to appear in the last four in Delray Beach, and although he ultimately lost to Sebastian Korda, he returned to the top 70.
(Rankings rise after Delray Beach: +7 to world No.67)
27 March 2021: Makes moves in March
Norrie upset 16th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov — then the highest-ranked player he had beaten in 2021 — to reach the third round in Miami. That result followed on from his quarterfinal finish in Acapulco, helping him trim 10 spots from his ranking in three weeks.
(Rankings rise after Miami: +5 to world No.51)
22 April 2021: Barcelona semifinal, return to top 50
At the ATP 500 event in Barcelona, Norrie beat quality clay-courters Karen Khachanov and David Goffin — who were both seeded — to reach the semifinals, where he was ultimately stopped by eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
(Rankings rise after Barcelona: +8 to world No.50
23 May 2021: Storms into Lyon final, second ATP final of 2021
Norrie maintained his excellent clay-court form, progressing to his first final of the season in Estoril. Less than a month later he reached another final; this came in Lyon, where he crushed Khachanov 6-1 6-1 in the semifinals after earlier beating world No.4 Dominic Thiem. Despite losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas, Norrie’s 2021 clay-court record stood at 14-4, and although the rankings were harder to scale due to the introduction of a COVID-19-adjusted formula, he continued inching his way up.
(Rankings rise after Lyon: +4 to world No.45)
14 June 2021: Equals career-high ranking after Roland Garros
Norrie reached the third round in Paris — where Nadal again stopped him — but this result saw him move up four spots to world No.41, equalling his previous best ranking from two years earlier.
(Rankings rise after Roland Garros: +4 to world No.41)
19 June 2021: Reaches biggest career final at Queen’s Club
Showing no signs of slowing once the tour moved to grass, Norrie upset No.2 seed Denis Shapovalov to advance to the ATP 500 final at London’s Queen’s Club, at that point the biggest final of his career. There he pushed Matteo Berrettini to three sets, yet saw his record in 2021 finals slip to 0-3. The consolation? A new career-high ranking on the cusp of the top 30.
(Rankings rise after Queen’s: +7 to world No.34)
25 July 2021: Wins first career ATP title in Los Cabos
By the time he arrived in Los Cabos, Norrie had cracked the top 30, helped by reaching the third round of Wimbledon — the fourth straight major at which he had made the last 32 — where he pushed Roger Federer to four sets. As the top seed in Mexico, Norrie was appearing in his fifth career tour-level final and fourth of the season, and he finally broke through with a thumping 6-2 6-2 win over Brandon Nakashima.
(Rankings rise after Los Cabos: +1 to world No.29)
2 October 2021: Beats world No.5 Rublev to reach San Diego final
After winning in Los Cabos, Norrie endured a minor slump, losing five of his next seven matches. But he rebounded in San Diego, stunning No.1 seed Andrey Rublev in the semifinals — just his second ever top-10 win — to notch his fifth final of the season. He also beat seeds Dan Evans and Shapovalov en route to that final, where Casper Ruud proved too strong.
(Rankings rise after San Diego: +2 to world No.26)
17 October 2021: Wins biggest career title at Indian Wells
Norrie continued to thrive in Southern California, beating a succession of quality opponents — including seeds Pablo Carreno Busta, Diego Schwartzman and Dimitrov — to arrive in the Indian Wells final. There he was just two games from defeat, before outlasting Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6 6-4 6-1. In winning his first ever Masters 1000 trophy, Norrie became the first Brit to ever triumph at Indian Wells.
(Rankings rise after Indian Wells: +10 to world No.16)
4 November 2021: Closes in on top 10
Norrie beat Reilly Opelka in straight sets to reach the last 16 at the Paris Masters. The result meant he’d won 13 of his past 15 matches — before he lost to Taylor Fritz in the third round — and it pushed him up to a career-high ranking of 12th.
(Rankings rise after Paris: +1 to world No.12)