Big Win in Rio for Cameron Norrie on the ATP Tour
The Telegraph Sport reports that Cameron Norrie landed the biggest title by a British player in almost 17 months, as he overcame a limping Carlos Alcaraz to win the ATP 500 event in Rio.
It was a display of rugged resilience from Norrie, who now leads the tour with 18 victories this season.
He was pushed to the limit by Alcaraz – who persevered despite a worrying thigh problem – but eventually came through by a tight scoreline – 5-7, 64, 7-5.
Having finally clinched his win with an ace after 2hr 41min, Norrie dropped to his knees and held both fists up in a heartfelt celebration. ”This one was sweet,” he explained afterwards. ”I’d already lost a couple of finals this year and I had to do it the tough way.”
The third set was particularly full of drama because Alcaraz compensated for his physical limitations by swinging furiously at every ball. Some of Alcaraz’s shotmaking was mind-boggling, especially when you consider that he was practically playing on one leg.
Norrie must have felt like he was in danger of being overwhelmed, as balls flew past him with alarming regularity. But it was all or nothing from Alcaraz, who was lethal on attack but seriously compromised on defence.
Given that this is the same thigh that caused Alcaraz to miss January’s Australian Open, one wondered about the wisdom of his decision to carry on.
Earlier, Norrie had already managed to extricate himself from an awkward moment in the second set, after he lost his balance on Rio’s slippery clay and suffered a heavy fall. He was trying to slide at the time, only for his foot to get stuck on one of the lines.
The incident triggered a slide of a different kind!
Norrie remonstrated with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes about the state of the court as he slipped to a set and 3-0 down, apparently losing confidence in his own movement. But he pulled himself together just in time, forcing himself to stay positive and aggressive.
Norrie’s stoical temperament is one of his great assets, and in the end, it helped him to take advantage of Alcaraz’s unfortunate injury. ”I was a set and a break down and love-30 on my serve,” Norrie recalled afterwards.
”I was looking done there, but I managed to just flick a switch and turn it around, so it was a good day. This is a surface that I’m not too comfortable with, so I had to battle a lot of demons in the last couple of weeks.”
These are encouraging times for men’s tennis in Britain, when you consider that Andy Murray also reached Saturday’s final in Doha before losing to Danil Medvedev.
For the last time that two British men played ATP finals on the same weekend, we have to rewind the clock all the way back to 1973, when Roger Taylor and Mark Cox performed this rare feat twice in the same summer.
Norrie now finds himself at a lofty No. 3 in the so-called ”Race to Turin” – which effectively means the rankings table for tournaments played this season. He has become a phenomenally reliable performer, with 13 ATP finals to his name over the last 22 months.
The only man to have appeared in more finals in that time is world No1 Novak Djokovic, with 15. Norrie has now won five of those finals.
This might seem a moderate conversion rate, but then you have to look at the players he has come up against, who include Rafael Nadal, Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Medvedev.
Over that period, he has only once lost a final to an opponent ranked outside the top ten – and that was seven weeks ago, when his emotions got the better of him against Richard Gasquet in his childhood home of Auckland.
Rio was a more significant event than either of the ATP 250s that Norrie won last season (Lyon and Delray Beach). It counts as the biggest title for him, or any British player, since he won the pandemic-rescheduled Indian Wells in October 2021.