Cameron Norrie claims biggest title by a British player since 2021
Cameron Norrie won the biggest British title in nearly 17 months when he defeated a limping Carlos Alcaraz to win the ATP 500 tournament in Rio.
It was a show of tough resilience from Norrie, who now leads the tour with 18 wins this season. He was pushed to the limit by Alcaraz, who held out despite a troubling hip problem, but ended up coming out with a tight 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Finally claiming his victory with an ace after 2 hours and 41 minutes, Norrie fell to his knees and raised both fists in heartfelt celebration. “This one was cute,” he later explained. “I’ve already lost a couple of finals this year and I had to do it the hard way.”
The third set was particularly dramatic as Alcaraz made up for his physical limitations by swinging furiously at every ball. Some of Alcaraz’s shots were stunning, especially since he was practically playing on one foot.
Norrie must have felt that he was in danger of losing, as the balls flew past him with frightening regularity. But it was all or nothing from Alcaraz, who was deadly on offense but seriously compromised on defense. Given that this is the same hip that caused Alcaraz to miss the January Australian Open, one could wonder about the wisdom of his decision to continue.
Previously, Norrie had already managed to extricate himself from an awkward moment in the second set, after he lost his balance on the slippery ground of Rio and fell heavily. At the time, he was trying to slide, but his foot got stuck on one of the lines. And the incident caused a slide of a different kind.
Norrie confronted chair umpire Carlos Bernardes about the state of the court as he slid into a set and lost 3-0, apparently losing confidence in his movements. But he pulled himself together in time, forcing himself to remain positive and aggressive. Norrie’s stoic temperament is one of his greatest strengths, and it eventually helped him take advantage of Alcaraz’s unfortunate injury.
“I had a set, a break and a love-30 on my serve,” Norrie later recalled. “I looked ready, but I managed to just flip the switch and turn it, so it was a good day. It’s a surface that I’m not too comfortable with, so I’ve had to fight a lot of demons over the past couple of weeks.”
These are encouraging times for men’s tennis in the UK, given that Andy Murray also made it to Saturday’s final in Doha. lost to Daniil Medvedev. The last time two Britons played in the ATP Finals on the same weekend, we have to rewind the clock to 1973, when Roger Taylor and Mark Cox accomplished this rare feat twice in the same summer.
Now Norrie is in a high third place in the so-called “Race to Turin”, which actually means the ranking table of tournaments played this season. He has become a phenomenally reliable player, with 13 ATP Finals to his name in the past 22 months. The only person to appear in more finals during this time is world No. 1 Novak Djokovic with 15.
Norrie has won five of these finals. That might seem like a moderate conversion rate, but then you have to look at the players he has faced, which include Rafael Nadal, Matteo Berrettini, Kasper Ruud and Medvedev.
In that time, he’s only lost in a final to a non-top-ten opponent, and that was seven weeks ago when emotions got the better of Richard Gasquet at his childhood home in Auckland.
Rio was a bigger event than any of the ATP 250s Norrie won last season (at Lyon and Delray Beach). This is the biggest title for him or any British player since he won the pandemic postponed tournament in Indian Wells in October 2021.