As well as coming in as the defending champion, another strong run in the Californian desert could see the 26-year-old lefty enter the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time.
The Brit has had to work hard in recent weeks to get himself in this position, recovering from his worst start to a season. Norrie won one set in his first four matches in 2022, but since then the World No. 12 has stepped up his game.
“All the credit goes to Cam, who didn’t panic after we had such a hard time in Australia,” Norrie’s coach Facundo Lugones told ATPTour.com. “From there we had time to regroup, and we trained very hard for 20 days, with a fitness coach and everything.
“In Rotterdam he picked up some confidence by winning some good matches. There he started to play well again, and in Delray Beach and Acapulco he showed that.”
After reaching the quarter-finals at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament (l. to eventual winner Auger-Aliassime), Norrie won the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com (d. Opelka) and was a finalist at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (l. to Nadal) to take his match record in 2022 to 10-6. His rapid recovery has brought him to within 190 points of World No. 10 Jannik Sinner.
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Norrie himself is not getting carried away. “It would be really amazing to be in the Top 10,” said the Brit. “It’s one of my goals this year. But for now, I just want to take it match by match and keep concentrating on my game.”
Lugones, whose work with Norrie earned him the 2021 ATP Coach of the Year award, believes his charge has what it takes to become one of the best in the world.
“Even though the Top 10 is one of his goals, I also think he is aiming higher and he’s working very hard to achieve it,” said the Argentine, who is just three years Norrie’s senior. “Even so, I don’t think he’s under pressure. When Cam was younger, he did feel a lot of pressure to get into the Top 100, but now he’s more mature and he’s more focused.”
Norrie could have reached the Top 10 by winning the title in Acapulco but losing the final to Rafael Nadal has done nothing to dampen his spirit and the Brit is focused on the positives from another strong week.
“It was great to beat an opponent like Stefanos [Tsitsipas] in the semi-finals,” said Norrie. “I definitely need to win matches like that to reach the Top 10, against the best and in the big rounds.”
Nadal also believes Norrie remains on track for further success. “Cameron is one of the most in-form players on tour”, said the Spaniard after securing the title in Acapulco. “His game is very difficult to play against. He has the virtue of making you feel that you can’t play comfortably.
“He makes you make difficult decisions, makes you think a lot on court. At the moment he’s one of the best in the world. He has had incredible potential for a year and half.”
The stats back up Nadal’s thoughts. At the start of 2021 Norrie was outside the Top 70 and still looking for his first ATP Tour title. He has now lifted three tour-level trophies and is a Masters 1000 champion. What did he do to improve so much, so quickly?
“He is increasingly professional and more relaxed,” says Lugones. “There is no desperation. Also, he likes to learn from the best, and he’s been watching a lot of tennis for two years. He’s a huge fan.
“He loves analysing his opponents, seeing what they do, how they defend. But he doesn’t only watch tennis on television. When we went to the Laver Cup last year, we saw what the other players were doing. We watched [Daniil] Medvedev a lot to see how he worked and competed. We really focused a lot on his return and how deep it was. The idea is to keep improving and learning.”
Analysing one of the best returners on Tour helped Norrie work on the part of his game that was in most need of a polish. “Cameron is now returning very well, he really likes doing it,” said Lugones. “It’s the thing we’ve worked the most on in the last year. We work on it by talking about it a lot and by me serving to him two million times a day!”
Norrie’s game may have evolved during his meteoric rise but personality-wise he has not changed. “He keeps a low profile,” says Lugones, who met Norrie at Texas Christian University. “He’s very relaxed, warm, a good friend, respectful, and he looks after his team.”
The Argentine is confident Norrie’s manner will stay the same, even if more success comes his way. “Even if he gets into the Top 10, he will still be just as down to earth,” said Lugones. “He will continue to have the same friends and treat everyone the same. I think that even if he were No. 1 in the world, he would still be the same humble person.”
Did You Know…?
Of the 176 players to have broken into the Top 10 since the ATP Rankings began in 1973, Norrie is bidding to become just the fourth Briton to achieve the feat after Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.