Having never set foot on a tennis court with Rafael Nadal in the first three years of his ATP Tour career, Cameron Norrie is beginning to get acquainted with the best. For the third time this year, Norrie looked at the Spaniard and showed the merits of his game, but ultimately couldn’t really upset Nadal, who advanced to the fourth round of the French Open 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. win.
As they prepared to face each other once more, Norrie was asked at his press conference if a match against Nadal at Roland Garros is the most difficult task in sport. He agreed, but also offered an interesting account of what he took from his previous encounters: “I have learned that he is actually a human being,” Norrie said. “He can miss shots. Can play short at times. But then you give him a little room to find his right and he gets it going. It can be extremely dangerous. It can be absolute carnage to get into the forehand there. “
In the early stages on the court of Suzanne Lenglen, Nadal closely resembled the last description. It was sharp, solid, and present. The solidity of Nadal’s game exposed only the most vulnerable shot on the court: Norrie’s forehand. As Norrie dragged Nadal in long 20-shot exchanges and tried to get into the baseline and impose his game where he could, his inability to consistently score points with his forehand made it too easy for Nadal. It quickly became the side that Nadal summarily broke when he took the first break of serve and eventually the first set.
Nadal is truly human, even at Roland Garros, and he struggled with his own forehand early in the second set. As his length shortened, he also sprayed forehand errors and Norrie pounced. He broke Nadal’s serve in back-to-back games, including with a winning punching backhand down the line to open a 3-1 lead.
One of the essential factors in Nadal’s success is his ability to overcome his mistakes. Every time Nadal lost his serve, he was immediately broken. He took control of the second set showing the breadth of his ability on the court, earning two points with excellent drop-shot-to-lob combinations. Nadal closed the set with one more moment of brilliance: a running backhand pass. Norrie never stopped looking for solutions and even tried a riskier approach. But, like almost everyone else in Norrie’s position, there was no going back.
It was a sentiment underlined by Victoria Azarenka on Twitter: “Seeing Rafa play at Roland Garros for me is like watching your favorite movie. You really enjoy it, but you know what’s going to happen. “
Norrie leaves Paris after some of the best months of her career and at the top of the game. He has finally achieved the true breakthrough on clay that he was always capable of. He has a 25-12 record for the year, which is currently the third most victories on the men’s tour and already by far the most ATP games he has won in a season.
At the beginning of the tournament, Norrie talked about the differences in his game between now and his first appearance in 2018. “I think I just came to love the sport a little bit more,” he said. “And it has become very addictive. Obviously it is difficult. Week after week, you suffer a lot of losses and I think that stuck me, hooked me to enjoy the game much more. Still wanting to prevail and succeed, go for more and want more. “
Norrie will head into the grass season for more, while Nadal’s attention will focus on the bigger challenges ahead. He will then face 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, who offered a short challenge in the first set of his quarter-finals last year, and which improves with each new tournament.
As Novak Djokovic continues to make his way through the draw, his next hurdle will also come from a young prospect. Djokovic easily defeated Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to set up a match with another 19-year-old Italian, Lorenzo Musetti, in the fourth round.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism