Doomed tennis player’s story took unexpected and perhaps deserved turn for the better

Cameron Norrie is one of just a handful of people in the country to serve a bit less vigorously than the men. He takes lessons from Wimbledon legend and legend-in-the-making John McEnroe, who has discovered an untapped hero in the hustle-and-bustle of the singles draw.

Over the weekend, Norrie won his first ever tournament. Never mind that he had to beat two of the world’s top-20 players in the process. His raw talent was enough to clinch him one of the biggest paydays ever for a Briton.

Few knew who Norrie was before Monday, but he has emerged from the British tennis ranks as a dedicated prospect, whose own journey has been both inspirational and harrowing.

Norrie was born in South Africa to British parents but grew up mainly in Plymouth, England. In 2015, when he was 13, he came back to Britain to live with his mother and grandmother. The fall-out from the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union soon followed. Norrie felt on his own after his family was almost deported, and he was acutely aware that his own future looked bleak.

Then his grandmother died in March 2017, and Norrie and his mother walked away from home and went to live with Norrie’s great uncle in Cardiff. That encouraged him to redouble his efforts.

No player wants to come to Wimbledon, ranked No. 197 in the world, having lost all his matches, even if you’re getting a free pass to the tournament. But as so often in tennis, all the adulation helps develop a mental toughness.

“I didn’t think I’d go far,” Norrie said. “It is hard, but not at home. We had a lot of mental blocks, and I was going to lose every match.”

Pairing a sunny disposition with strong serves and solid, disciplined play, Norrie swiftly worked his way up the ranks of British men’s tennis, and looked to be on a bright path to glory.

The British Open in May 2017 secured his first two ATP tournaments, having won his third tournament this year. When he came to Wimbledon, with British hopes high, he suffered his only defeat in his first three matches. At the same time, he was moved to tears.

It was the beginning of a tight time frame for Norrie, as well as the year leading up to the Olympics in August and then the end of the season at the Australian Open in January.

So what happened? Good serve, solid grass-court game. Then a shoulder injury interrupted his progress. Now, a victory to set up a clash with one of the world’s top seeds.

There were dark clouds in the Swiss sky for Norrie, as on Thursday he failed to get past Gael Monfils in the qualifying round. Injury clouds.

But he returned to the Metz exhibition tennis tournament on Saturday. First up was Leonardo Mayer. He beat him in three sets. The next day, Jack Sock offered up another winner – and, if by some miracle Norrie is still alive by the time the next ATP event opens in Paris next week, he will be named as the new No. 30.

But it was only Norrie himself who announced what was in the first place: he is now one of the top-70 players in the world, and they don’t call him Shugashov — after the Siberian tiger in the Winter Olympics, not the Russian doubles player – for nothing.

Leave a Comment