Rafael Nadal turns to power to extinguish Britain’s Cameron Norrie threat at French Open

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Cam Norrie was outclassed by Rafael Nadal at the French Open, but at least he didn’t act like an obliging guest in the Spaniard’s spiritual home.

The British No. 2 went down 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in their third round encounter, but not before complaining to umpire Louise Engzell about his opponent’s painfully slow play.

Some players enjoy Nadal’s timekeeping, but twice during the switchovers there were three-way exchanges, which led to the chair telling the 13-time champion to stay within the limits.

Rafael Nadal recorded his third third round victory over Cameron Norrie this year

Rafael Nadal recorded his third third round victory over Cameron Norrie this year

The match heated up early in the second set when Norrie broke the clay master twice in a row and tried to speed up the game. However, the gap between the two left-handers was too great and he was never able to extend his lead at 2-0 and 3-1.

“He’s good at managing the time I serve,” Norrie commented afterwards. ‘The rule is that you have to play at the speed of the server. I’m a bouncer and I’m going. He didn’t finish a few times and I had to play on his speed a bit when I served.’

Nadal, whose reputation for slow play predominates, was sensitive to the matter but said he had nothing to apologize for.

“Sometimes I think he was trying to speed up the situations, to put some pressure on it. I don’t think I did anything bad. I didn’t complain at all when he threw his ball 20 times badly,” said the Spaniard.

The third seed won in straight sets to set up a meeting with Jannik Sinner in the last 16

The third seed won in straight sets to set up a meeting with Jannik Sinner in the last 16

The third seed won in straight sets to set up a meeting with Jannik Sinner in the last 16

“The referee just told me to be faster because he was ready. Okay, if he wants to exert that pressure, I’ll just accept it.’

In the end, Norrie was justifiably pleased with the way he fought and did not claim that the dispute was the difference between winning and losing.

“I don’t think he did anything on purpose, I just think he’s like the routines,” Norrie said.

Nadal tends to be given some leeway – just as it seems he has been when it comes to the size of his entourage at Roland Garros.

The original instructions stated that, with Covid restrictions, each singles player could only have two accreditations. Not that it would have made a substantial difference to yesterday’s outcome, but watching Nadal in his box was a group of eight, including his wife, mother, father, sister and public relations consultant.

It will be interesting to see if Wimbledon allows such a flexible interpretation of their preset limits.

Cameron Norrie pushed the 13-time champions third in their third round match on Saturday

Cameron Norrie pushed the 13-time champions third in their third round match on Saturday

Cameron Norrie pushed the 13-time champions third in their third round match on Saturday

Norrie, 25, is now going home after months of absence and going via Queen’s to SW19, which starts Monday in a week. He will do so armed with 25 tour-level victories this year and clearly with a burgeoning reputation in the dressing room.

Indeed, Nadal said: “I saw before the race that his position in the race for this year is 13th, so that shows how many races he has won. I was happy to win in straight sets.’

Like two battleships on a collision course, the Spaniard and Novak Djokovic collide inexorably for a clash in the semi-finals.

Djokovic wasted little time hammering Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis to make it to the fourth round for the 12th consecutive time. It’s hard to imagine him losing to Grand Slam debutant Lorenzo Musetti now.

The 19-year-old is one of two Italian teens to make it to the fourth round, the other being the acclaimed Jannik Sinner.

Sinner, who gave Nadal his toughest game in the October 2020 edition en route to the title in Paris, will now play him again.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek, now the clear favorite to win the title and in the other half of Serena Williams, was tested by Anett Kontaveit before winning 7-6, 6-0. Coco Gauff equaled her best Major performance when she also made it to the fourth round when opponent Jennifer Brady retired.

An improved week after a lean spell for Jamie Murray and partner Bruno Soares came to an end when they were beaten 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the third round of doubles by clay court experts Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau.

Meanwhile, Briton Alfie Hewett described his comeback win over Gustavo Fernandez in the men’s wheelchair semi-final as ‘the game of my life’.

The defending champion trailed the decider 5-1 and then got three match points in the tiebreak to take a 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 victory.

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