Cameron Norrie has spent much of his career flying under the radar – no more.
Despite entering Wimbledon as the British No.1 and ranked ninth in the world, Norrie had to play second fiddle to two-time champion Andy Murray.
His first-round match did not even warrant a spot on either of Wimbledon’s top two courts. He had to wait until round three to earn a place on Centre Court.
But now, with Murray and Emma Raducanu both having packed their bags, Norrie got his chance and stepped up to the plate with aplomb.
American Steve Johnson is a tricky opponent on grass and Norrie entered the game having never previously reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam, while he was beaten on both previous Centre Court showings.
There was not even a hint of freezing under the bright lights on this occasion however, Norrie cruising through 6-4 6-1 6-0.
He even has his own crowd chant, slightly more imaginative than the ‘C’mon Tim’ and ‘C’mon Andy’ that preceded him. As the match wore on, the cries of ‘Norrie, Norrie, Norrie, Oi, Oi Oi’ returned with increasing regularity.
There is a long way to go until Norrie can be spoken of in the same breath as Murray, Britain’s greatest tennis player of the modern era, but he is starting to step out of the shadows.
Speaking of the chant, he said: “Every time they said it, I broke serve. It’s a good sign. I’m a little bit superstitious, it was pretty funny and a good atmosphere.
“I really enjoyed the match thoroughly. It definitely added to the noise of the match and atmosphere out there on Centre Court.
“It’s a lot of fun. Being the British No. 1, playing on Centre Court, being in the spotlight, enjoying it and playing to that level that I did today, was a lot of fun. I embraced it and really enjoyed it.”
After a hard-fought first set, it quickly became clear that Johnson did not have the weapons to challenge Norrie.
Early in the third set, when the 26-year-old chased down what looked like a perfect lob, somehow got himself back into the point with a long backhand and ended up winning a point he had no right to, Johnson knew the jig was up.
This is uncharted territory for Norrie but the draw is opening up for him. Another American awaits in the fourth round, Tommy Paul, who is yet to drop a set in three matches and is one of Norrie’s closest friends on tour.
Norrie cannot face a player ranked above him in the world until the semi-finals where Novak Djokovic would likely await.
Considering Norrie’s record at slams, it would be premature to write him into that match already but the path is there. First however, will be a titanic clash with Paul.
Norrie added: “Playing Tommy in the fourth round is going to be a battle. I always have a battle with him.
“I practise with him. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve actually practised maybe two or three times already here at Wimbledon. We know each other’s game very well.
“We’re good friends off the court. But we’re going to both leave that aside and it’s going to be a battle, for sure.”
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