Norrie Capitalising On Challenger Success
On Aug. 21, classes started at Texas Christian University, where Cameron Norrie was a three-time All-American. But that day, Norrie, who turned professional after the team’s spring season, was far away from Texas. The 22 year old was in New York preparing for the US Open, where he would qualify and win his first Grand Slam main draw match.
“I would much rather be at the US Open than be at syllabus week,” Norrie laughed. “I think that a lot of people would be pretty happy for me that I was there and not at school anymore.”
Less than four months ago, Norrie was the No. 1-ranked college player in the country as a junior. Now, he is taking the professional circuit by storm, especially making an impression on the ATP Challenger Tour. The left-hander won his maiden title in Binghamton, New York, followed by a semi-final run in Lexington, Kentucky, and beat second-seeded Tennys Sandgren this week in Cary, North Carolina, to earn a spot in the quarter-finals.
“I knew I had the level, but I didn’t know how quickly I was going to do this well,” Norrie admitted. “I know tennis is a real tough sport so I’ve just kind of taken advantage of the confidence and being able to back up my wins with more wins. So it’s going really well for me right now and I’m just enjoying the process.”
It is easy to gain confidence when you come from 1-4, 0/30 down in the deciding set of a final like Norrie did in Binghamton this July against World No. 86 Jordan Thompson to claim his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy. That performance guaranteed Norrie’s spot in US Open Qualifying.
“It was a great experience. I was pretty lucky to be there in the first place,” said Norrie of his trip to the season’s final Grand Slam. “I couldn’t believe I was actually in the second round of the US Open...I can use the experience for next year and so I can get better and hopefully I can make the third round next year. But I was just really satisfied with how I’m doing and it’s just really a sick moment in my life.”
In just a few months, Norrie went from college tennis to playing ATP World Tour stars Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon, where Norrie entered with a wild card, and eventual semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round of the US Open.
“I got a little bit anxious and I was pretty nervous for the match so there were a lot of things I could learn from,” said Norrie, who flew his best friend to New York for the match, of playing Carreño Busta. “I didn’t think it was going to happen that quickly, so I’m happy. I’m very fond of those two weeks in New York.”
While Norrie is ecstatic with his strong summer, which will propel him back into the Top 200 of the Emirates ATP Rankings next week, he knows that he has to maintain his focus and continue to work hard at the Challenger level. Norrie has been playing well at the Atlantic Tire Championships this week, where he will play another former No.1-ranked college player in Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) on Friday.
“This is what you have to do to get up there,” said Norrie of playing Challengers to work his way to the top of the ATP World Tour. “It’s kind of nice to use the US Open as a base and to try to work hard until you’re only playing those level tournaments.”
Norrie was born in South Africa, moved to New Zealand at three years old, spent three years in London as a teen and now is making his training base at his old school, TCU, in Texas. So while he has grown up all over the world, Norrie will get to continue trekking the globe if he keeps up his strong play.
“I feel like I’m learning from each week and I know there’s going to be difficult times out there,” Norrie said. “I just need to be ready for those and just try and enjoy my tennis life. It’s pretty lucky to be able to play tennis for a living so I’m pretty grateful for that.”