© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Cameron Norrie has won two tour-level titles this season.

Lung Power Helping Norrie In Journey To The Top

Briton is making his fifth appearance at Wimbledon

Editor's note: This story was first published on 28 June 2022

At the start of the 2021 season, then-World No. 74 Cameron Norrie was asked who he thought would have a breakthrough year on the ATP Tour. Without hesitation, he confidently backed himself.

Fast forward 18 months and the Briton has certainly delivered on his statement with a series of standout results. Since his declaration, the 26-year-old has lifted four tour-level trophies – including his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Indian Wells - competed at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin and cracked the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

“It is exactly where I want to be and the progress has been pretty significant,” Norrie told ATPTour.com when reflecting on the past year. “I think I have improved a lot of things. Firstly, the fundamentals of serve and return. Just putting the ball in tougher positions for the opponent and playing the bigger points on my terms.

“Then being calmer in bigger situations and matches than I had been in the past, so a mixture of everything. I am also just enjoying it day in day out and enjoying playing at the level. Last year I didn’t have a week which was a nothing week. I kept building and kept momentum and it was a lot of fun. I loved it. Indian Wells was amazing and to break into the Top 10 was unbelievable.”

Norrie is chasing further success this fortnight on home soil at Wimbledon, where he is the ninth seed. The Briton has never been beyond the third round at a Grand Slam, but made a promising start on the lawns in London on Monday when he defeated Pablo Andujar.

With Jaume Munar awaiting in the second round, the South Africa-born Norrie will be looking to rely on a special attribute as he looks to build up a head of steam at SW19: his impressive endurance levels.

Norrie, who won four deciding set matches en route to the title in the heat in Indian Wells last year, revealed that he first became aware that his fitness levels were abnormal when he visited a doctor when he was younger.

"The guy said to me ‘Are you a deep-sea diver?’ because of the size of my lungs. But I had no idea because I thought it was just normal,” Norrie said. “When he told me that it gave me more confidence in my running ability and engine. It is crucial to my game. I like to try and play long matches and make it as physical as I can and the longer the rally goes the better.”

By joining tennis’ elite at the top of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in the past year, Norrie has laid down another marker in his journey in the sport, which first took off when he arrived at Texas Christian University in 2014.

Although Norrie's long-term aim was to eventually compete professionally, he admitted that he felt that continuing to undertake formal education and play college matches would be a more suitable path for him at the time. Today, it is a decision the lefty is delighted that he made.

“I loved it,” Norrie said when analysing his university experience. “You are there with your team and friends. You are going out with them, practising with them and playing a lot of matches. It takes a lot of pressure off trying to turn pro at such a young age. If you are trying to play Futures at 17 or 18 it can be difficult, especially if you don’t have any financial help.

“I think you can lose direction pretty easily and there can be a lot of mental scaring losing week in, week out, so for me it gave me a couple of years to mature, settle in and live a more normal life. I had a full scholarship and I would definitely recommend it to almost everyone.”

You May Also Like: Coach Lugones On Norrie: 'He's A Completely Different Animal'

Having moved to study in the United States from London, Norrie was thankful for the friends he made when he arrived in Texas. Today, there is one person in particular who continues to have an influential role in his career. Coach Facundo Lugones. The Argentine was the a volunteering assistant coach for the University team and was planning to pursue a career in the financial industry upon graduation.

However, Norrie persuaded Lugones to be his coach when he left school to turn professional in 2017 and it is a partnership that has flourished ever since.

“Facu is so passionate about tennis. He loves it and has learned a lot as well,” Norrie said. “It is interesting because every time I am doing something for the first time it is the same for him and it has been good. He is very committed and is travelling a lot with me. I feel very fortunate to have someone like Facu.”

From relaxing on campus to tactically unpicking the games of some of the greatest players to have played the sport, Norrie and Lugones have come a long way in a relatively short space of time. The lefty is pleased with how they have developed together.

“The relationship has changed a lot,” Norrie admitted. “At TCU we played on the team together. We were going out together and playing together. After college when I asked him to be my coach, the relationship changed and it is a much more professional relationship for sure. Facu did a great job drawing the line.”

Norrie is currently riding high as the British No. 1. However, he admitted that he struggled at times when first transitioning from college tennis to the Tour, even with Lugones in his corner.

“At college I could rely on running and putting balls into court, but when transitioning to pro-level I had to become more aggressive,” Norrie said. “Everyone was serving and returning at a much higher level. At college there is so much going on with lessons and meetings and tennis and then suddenly you just have the tennis and it is quite nice to focus on just that. But it was a bit of a shock. The other distractions before helped me a little bit.”

Having fully found his home on Tour now, the World No. 12 will look to push himself to the limits again this fortnight in London, where his goal is clear.

"I want to try and play at a better level at the Grand Slams," Norrie said. "I have made the third round at all of them, but I feel I have potential in my game over five sets to do better.

“Looking ahead, I would love to qualify for the [Nitto ATP] Finals. played last year and would love to do that again. Also, keep pushing towards World No. 1, which I would like to get to at some point."

Having climbed from No. 74 to a career-high No. 10 in the past year, you wouldn’t bet against Norrie accomplishing his ultimate goal of World No. 1. The Briton’s victories over Top 10 stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in the past six months show that he has the game, but time will tell to see if he can make that final jump. Maybe his enhanced lungs will help him find his way.

More stories like this in: