British number one Cameron Norrie is gearing up for the biggest match of his career as he takes on defending champion Novak Djokovic in their Wimbledon semi-final on Friday.
Going by the bookies’ odds, the Serbian top seeds is the overwhelming favorite to win the match and go through to Sunday’s final in a tournament he has previously won six times, including the last three.
But could ninth seed Norryalso known as Cam, cause a major upset and knock out the world number three?
There are several reasons why it is possible:
That powerful forehand
Norrie is a left-handed player and one of his biggest weapons is his heavy topspin forehand, which he has used to great effect at the grass court championships.
He has become only the fourth British man to reach the Wimbledon semis in the Open era, joining Roger Taylor, Tim Henman and Andy Murray.
Norrie, currently ranked 12th in the world, also has a strong flat two-handed backhand.
The flat backhand combined with the topspin forehand makes Norrie’s shots unpredictable and adds a variety to his game that opponents can sometimes struggle with.
And he has a steady game when it comes to making shots at the net and his coverage around the court is faultless.
Sky News sports editor Nick Powell said facing a ‘lefty’ is not new to Djokovic, who has played Rafael Nadal 59 times, including 30 wins.
But he added: “That left-handed serve of Norrie, swinging out wide to the opponent’s backhand and opening up the court for the next shot, is a helpful weapon.”
Sky News sports presenter Jacquie Beltrao said: “Norrie’s strength is his defence. His game is built around that and he doesn’t miss much but he is coming up against the man with the greatest defense in the history of the game.
“Djokovic defends better than anyone on the planet. So he won’t win this battle.
“Norrie will have to be aggressive and this is not his instinct, although in the fifth set of the quarter-final against Belgian David Goffin he did go for it.”
His ‘huge’ lungs
Norrie is one of the fittest players on tour and is widely respected by his peers.
He also has “huge lungs” which he will have to make full use of to overcome the 35-year-old Serb, who is also known for his high energy levels.
With his big lung capacity, Norrie is able to perform well in long matches, including his quarter-final against Goffin, where he came back from being behind twice to win a five-set thriller.
The 26-year-old Briton previously revealed: “I went to the hospital for some tests after an accident in college and one of the techs was like, ‘are you a deep sea diver or something? Your lungs are huge! I’ve never seen lungs like that’ – so about five years ago I realized I had big lungs and I’ve used them to my advantage ever since.”
Nick Powell said: “Norrie is like a racehorse that thrives on a long distance, and he never knows when he’s beaten (as David Goffin was reminded in the quarter-finals).”
Norrie’s extra warm-up
Norrie has been cycling to and from the Championships, such is the relatively short distance between his house and the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
He cites the extra warm-up that it offers and the added bonus of skipping the heavy traffic around Wimbledon during the championships.
The majority of the Center Court crowd at Wimbledon will be behind Norrie as they were in the quarter-final when they roared him to victory on Court One.
Norrie clinched his win on his second match point, raising his arms aloft when Goffin netted a forehand after three hours and 28 minutes.
Crowds outside on so-called Henman Hill/Murray Mound, which fans are now suggesting should be dubbed Norrie Knoll, roared at every point the British player won during the final game of the match and gasped when he lost a point.
Jacquie Beltrao said: “He will have the crowd on his side and he definitely used that in his quarter-final. But Novak is used to being the least popular in a Wimbledon latter stages match, it sometimes fires him up.
“On his side, Norrie has youth and incredible fitness. He also has his mum and dad over from New Zealand and that has given him a huge boost. He has nothing to lose (no one expects him to win) so he might as well go down swinging.”
Nick Powell said: “Djokovic is well used to being the bad guy. But the Wimbledon roars carried Norrie over the line on Tuesday and the ninth seed is learning to harness home support.”
Norrie was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to a Scottish father and Welsh mother before growing up in New Zealand.
He admitted his relationship with tennis was rocky upon moving to London aged 16 when he decided to pledge his allegiance to Britain.
School life was different, his routine had changed drastically, but New Zealand could not offer him the same opportunities that Britain could. Almost a decade later, his relationship with tennis is as strong as it has ever been.
After a year in London, Norrie committed to Texas Christian University (TCU) in the US and embraced an environment in which he could mature as a player.
By the time he was elected to turn professional in 2018, Norrie was the leading college player in the nation.
His real emergence came last year when he closed out 2021 having won two of six final appearances, Indian Wells being among the triumphs, while reeling off 52 singles victories on tour to rise from 74th to 12th in the rankings.
Norrie translated that form into 2022 by defeating the big-serving American Reilly Opelka in the final of the Delray Beach Open in February to clinch his third career singles title, before reaching the final in Acapulco where he lost to Rafael Nadal having beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas.
He then broke into the top 10 after making it to the fourth round of the Miami Open, and followed up by claiming a fourth title in Lyon thanks to a straight-sets win over Francisco Cerundolo.
The tight team
Norrie’s long-time coach is Argentine Facundo Lugones and the pair have been together since 2017 after Norrie’s time at Texas Christian University.
According to the ATP Tour, when Lugones completed his studies at TCU, he got an opportunity to travel with Norrie, who was leaving TCU to turn professional.
Last year, Lugones was named coach of the year at the 2021 ATP Awards for his efforts in helping the British number one to the best season of his career.
Norrie said: “He really gets the best out of me. It is nice to have someone who knows you well off the court. I can tell him anything. I think it is important you can have someone you can speak openly with about how you are feeling.”
They are clearly seeing the dividends of that partnership and loyalty now.
Normality – he’s keeping it real
In graciously declining the comfort of pre-arranged transport at Wimbledon and instead riding a bike, he welcomes the normality and the independence he had sought and blossomed within while coming through the US college system as a student-athlete.
He also does not have the aesthetic slickness of his compatriots with their initials-embroidered shoes and eye-popping Nike patterns.
The normality has clearly worked for him so far.
Could being the underdog play to Norrie’s advantage?
He was soundly beaten in their only previous meeting – at last year’s World Tour Finals in Turin – but remains confident he can trouble Djokovic this time. The winner will face either Spain’s Rafael Nadal or Australian Nick Kyrgios in the final.
Asked if he believes he can beat defending champion Djokovic, Norrie answered: “For sure. I think it’s obviously one of the toughest tasks in tennis. I’d say grass is his favorite surface and his record is unbelievable here at Wimbledon. It’s going to be tough.
“I’m looking forward to taking it to him and seeing the level he brings. Yeah, it’s going to be a tricky one.”
Jacquie Beltrao said: “Novak has shown his ability to bounce back and find a way already at these championships – even if Norrie goes a set or two up it will be an almost impossible task to shut the door completely on the six-time Wimbledon champion .
“A Norrie win would be unlikely but he’ll fight for it, that’s for sure.”
She added: “Novak also has the added motivation that he wants to go down in history as the greatest of all time. He needs this slam to close the gap on Rafael Nadal.
“He may not be allowed to play at the US Open due to his vaccination status. This is his one chance, as the rules stand, to chalk up one more slam and take him to 21 – one ahead of Roger Federer and one less than Rafa.”
Nick Powell said: “It can only encourage Norrie that the top seed has dropped a set in three of five matches so far, and needed three and a half hours and five sets to see off Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals.”
He also said strange things have been happening at the tournament – a fortnight of absent friends, shock exits, Nick Kyrgios-fueled feuds and a 34-year-old mother of two (Germany’s Tatjana Maria) reaching her first grand slam semi-final.
Norrie reaches Wimbledon quarter-finals
British number one into last 16