“I know what I’m getting at”: British number 2 Cameron Norrie is ready for the ultimate test as she takes on 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal in Paris
- Norrie will face Nadal in the third round of the French Open on Saturday
- The Brit pushed his opponent hard in the same phase of the Australian Open
- The 25-year-old’s challenge lasts longer than that of the host country
- Watch the French Open live on Eurosport and the Eurosport app
Cam Norrie will get the chance to climb his personal Everest on Saturday when he meets Rafael Nadal in the third round of the French Open.
Given that no one has dominated a single event like the 13-time champion, defeating Nadal in Paris can be described as one of the most herculean tasks in any sport.
After all, Norrie leaves base camp without any expectations, even though he is the last Briton in the individual.
Cameron Norrie will face Rafael Nadal in the third round of the French Open on Saturday
We probably shouldn’t have expected much more, but it’s all relative. Incredible that Norrie can make the final 32 means the challenge from across the English Channel took longer than that from the host nation.
French tennis was in shock on Friday when, for the first time in 40 years, no one from one of the sport’s traditional powerhouse nations reached the third round of a Grand Slam – the last time at Wimbledon in 1981.
With an abundance of domestic wildcards even more than in SW19 at the end of this month, 28 French players made it into the men’s and women’s draw. When Nadal finished his ritual demolition of Richard Gasquet late Thursday evening, everything was gone.
“Out of breath at Roland Garros”, as it was described in the autopsy by L’Equipe, sports bible in a country where tennis is more valued than in Great Britain.
Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday on Thursday with a win over Richard Gasquet
Huge resources but few to show for, a familiar situation for anyone who follows British tennis. Or as the saying goes: ‘You can make money out of tennis players, but not tennis players out of money.’
Norrie has developed into a real player after a hiking trip that took him from New Zealand to London, spending several years at the University of Texas.
With few players progressing through their early 20s, a scholarship to an American college is an increasingly popular path into the professional ranks.
Few have gone down the path as successfully as the 25-year-old left-hander, but it will take a seismic surprise before a French Open Brexit is not completed by Saturday evening.
The defending champion is ready for a tough fight after two encounters this year
A win that Norrie has already claimed is easy to gain Nadal’s respect – the Spaniard noted his opponent’s roster of 25 wins on the ATP Tour this season.
‘He’s a great player. He wins a lot of games this year, ”said Nadal. “He gets good results every week and wins against very good players. I know it’s going to be tough.
“I have to be ready to do my best. I know he has a style of play that you can’t just play against. ‘
Nadal and the rest of the locker room now know what to look out for when playing Norrie. One thing is his skillfully guided, flat backhand, another is his stamina, which is sharpened by his predilection for long-distance running.
The two southpaws have met twice this year and while Norrie has yet to win a set, he pushed his opponent hard when they played in the same phase of the Australian Open in February.
“When I hit my backhand hard on his backhand, pinned him in that corner and then dug him into the forehand, I did that well sometimes,” said the British number 2. “I know where I’m at. ‘
Probably another learning experience that will prepare him well for the grass season.
That starts with the qualifying event at the Nottingham Open. Norrie has yet to play on home soil this year and has had little chance of returning to his Putney apartment. As the French players have shown, performing at home is not always the advantage it seems.