‘I know what I stand for’: British No. 2 Cameron Norrie ready for ultimate test by beating 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal in Paris
- Norrie takes on Nadal in the third round at the French Open on Saturday
- The Brit pushed his opponent hard in the same stage of the Australian Open
- The 25-year-old’s challenge has lasted longer than that of the host country
- Watch the French Open live on Eurosport and Eurosport app
Cam Norrie will get the chance to climb his personal Everest on Saturday when he takes on Rafael Nadal in the third round of the French Open.
Given that no one has dominated a single event quite like the 13-time champion, beating Nadal in Paris can reasonably be described as one of the most gargantuan tasks in any sport.
In any case, Norrie leaves base camp unbothered by anticipation, despite being the last Briton in singles.
Cameron Norrie takes on Rafael Nadal in the third round at the French Open on Saturday
We probably didn’t expect much more, but everything is relative. Unbelievably, Norrie making the last 32 means the challenge from across the Channel has lasted longer than the host country.
French tennis was in shock on Friday, as for the first time in 40 years, none of the sport’s traditional powerhouses made it to the third round of a Grand Slam – most recently at Wimbledon in 1981.
With a plethora of domestic wildcards being handed out later this month, even more than SW19, 28 French players were in the men’s and women’s draws. When Nadal completed his ritualistic demolition of Richard Gasquet late Thursday night, everything was gone.
‘Out of breath at Roland Garros’, as it was described in the autopsy by L’Equipe, sports bible in a country where tennis enjoys a more respected reputation than in the UK.
Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday in style on Thursday with victory over Richard Gasquet
Huge resources but few to show it off, a familiar situation to anyone following British tennis. Or as the saying goes, “You can make money with tennis players, but you can’t make tennis players with money.”
Norrie has made himself a real player after a roaming journey that took him from New Zealand to London, with several years at university in Texas along the way.
With few players progressing into their early 20s, an American college scholarship is an increasingly popular avenue into the professional ranks.
Few have trod the path as successfully as the 25-year-old lefthander, but it will take a huge jolt before a French Open Brexit isn’t completed yet on Saturday night.
The defending champion is ready for a tough fight after two meetings this year
A win Norrie has already achieved is simply gaining Nadal’s respect – the Spaniard notched his opponent’s tally of 25 wins on the ATP Tour this season.
“He’s a great player. He’s been winning a lot of games this year,” Nadal said. “Every week he makes good results and wins against very good players. I know it will be a difficult one.
“I have to be ready to play at my best. I know he has a style of play that you can’t easily play against.’
By now, Nadal and the rest of the locker room know what to look for when playing Norrie. One thing is his smartly focused, flat backhand, while another is his stamina, honed by his penchant for long-distance running.
The two left-handers have met twice this year and while Norrie hasn’t won a set yet, he put a lot of pressure on his opponent when they played at the same stage of the Australian Open in February.
“When I hit his backhand hard with my backhand, clamped him in that corner and then drilled him into the forehand, I think I did a good job at times,” said the British No. 2 for.
Probably another learning experience, and one that will prepare him well for the grass season.
That starts with the qualifying event at the Nottingham Open. Norrie has yet to play on home soil this year and has barely had a chance to return to his flat in Putney. As the French players have shown, performing at home is not always the advantage it seems.