Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

The new British number 1: Cameron Norrie wins Master’s at Indian Wells

Posted on 23 October 2021 by Kristina Thiedeitz

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In an unexpected Indian Wells Master final, Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili faced off in a match of the underdogs.

Both players scrapped their way to the final, overcoming formidable opponents like Stefano Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman. In a thrilling contest, Norrie came back 3-6 6-4 6-1 to become Britain’s first-ever Indian Wells champion.

But who is Cameron Norrie? Born in Johannesburg of two British parents and raised in New Zealand, he learned to play tennis at the age of six on his parents’ driveway.

At first, Norrie decided to represent New Zealand, but after moving to London at 16-years-old, he switched allegiances to Great Britain.

He then attended Texas Christian University, where he topped the college player rankings for North America. In 2017, he decided to start his professional career, and he has been improving ever since.

So far in 2021, Norrie won his first ATP title in Los Cabos, Mexico, and has gone to six finals, the same number as Novak Djokovic. His Indian Wells victory means he now overtakes Dan Evans to become Britain’s new men’s number one.

When asked about the differences made this year, he said:

“I have been enjoying my tennis. And enjoying being out on the court and competing in the big moments. I am just really pleased with how I handled the occasion, and I think I do it a lot better this year.”

Cameron Norrie’s previous rounds have shown how strong his nerves are. Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Tommy Paul were beaten in three sets.

In the quarterfinals, he played excellent tennis against the eleventh seed Diego Schwartzman and won easily 6-0 6-2. Next up was Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals. Again, Cameron Norrie showed nerves of steel and won 6-2 6-4.

Nikoloz Basilashvili was his opponent in the final. The two had only met once before, and Norrie won this match 6-0 6-3.

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The Georgian is more experienced than Norrie, having played professionally since 2008 and has already won five titles. The two performances of both in the previous rounds suggested an exciting match.

Norrie broke early to make it 2-1. He then went 3-1 up on his serve, but the Georgian was dogged in his defence and quickly turned the tides by winning the next five games. Norrie, stunned by his opponent’s pace, lost the first set 3-6 in 30 minutes.

In the second set, it looked as if Basilashvili, with all his experience, would take the title with ease as he broke Norrie again.

However, the Brit refused to back down and broke back. Both players traded blows, exchanging breaks of serve, but it was Norrie who kept consistent and closed out the second set 6-4.

In the decisive third set, momentum was clearly with Norrie, who quickly gained a 3-0 lead. Basilashvili tried to rally back, but the Briton comfortably shut down the Georgian’s desperate attempts to win the third set 6-1.

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The new British number one has his first Master’s title, in a tournament where he has never won a main round match. After the match, he said:

“I can’t believe it. If you had told me before the tournament, I wouldn’t believe you. It is amazing, and I can’t put it into words right now.”

The win not only brings Norrie a tidy sum of prize money but also moves him up to 16th in the world tennis rankings,within reaching distance of the ATP Finals in Turin.

Tennis is highly valued in Great Britain, and many people share an enthusiasm for the sport.  For years, Andy Murray dominated the tennis world and left the British population in ecstasy.

But after his hip surgery in 2019, he was unable to repeat his previous successes. Public interest in tennis has dropped since the decline of Murray. This year, there has been a reason for hope again for British tennis fans.

For one thing, 18-year-old Emma Raducanu’s victory at the US Open this year has given British tennis a real boost. Things are also improving in the men’s game.

World No. 23 seed Dan Evans could win his first ATP tournament this year, but Cameron Norrie is arguably the more significant hope on the men’s side.

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Although he has only played at the professional level since 2017, he has already achieved a lot. With his surprising victory at the Masters in Indian Wells, he has inspired many.

The performance of the young British talents shows a positive development, but it remains to be seen whether they can keep up and start a new chapter in British tennis history.