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Norrie matches Nadal, Alcaraz by reaching Rio SFs in title defense

Cerundolo, Baez set all-Argentine SF matchup
February 24, 2024
Cameron Norrie is the defending champion in Rio de Janeiro. By ATP Staff

Cameron Norrie faced the first real test of his title defense at the Rio Open presented by Claro, but the second seed handled Thiago Seyboth Wild and the Brazilian crowd with great poise Friday night to return to the semi-finals at the ATP 500.

The Briton held off a comeback charge to notch a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 result, ultimately clinching victory on his fifth match point to advance to his first ATP Tour semi-final since Lyon last May.

"I was just really proud of how I fought hard," Norrie said post-match. "It was so humid and it was tough physically. I managed to break there in the end, so I'm proud of myself."

Through to his 24th tour-level semi-final (14-9), Norrie is the third defending champion in Rio to reach the semi-finals. Rafael Nadal reached the 2015 semis after his 2014 title, while Carlos Alcaraz advanced to last season's final (l. to Norrie) after winning the event in 2022. No player has won the Rio singles title twice.

Norrie improved to 8-3 this season, with this latest victory one of his biggest in recent months. He also moved to 33-3 on clay against players ranked outside the Top 50 since the start of 2021.

"It's massive," Norrie said of returning to a tour-level semi-final. "I had a tough patch at the end of last year and I just wanted to stay strong. It's wins like this that make it count."

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After being made to pay for a dip in set two, Norrie built a 5-1 lead in the final set without facing a break point. Seyboth Wild, spurred on by his home fans, clipped the line with a floated passing shot to save one of three break points in that game, but he could not escape a 0/40 hole when he served to stay in the match. 

Norrie will meet 22-year-old qualifier Mariano Navone in the semi-finals. The Argentine ended the dream run of 17-year-old Brazilian wild card and hometown hero Joao Fonseca with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory to close Friday's play. Both Navone and Fonseca recorded their first ATP Tour match wins this week and were competing in their first tour-level quarter-final.

Behind his Rio run, Navone is set to make his Top 100 debut in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, when he will rise from his current career-high of World No. 113 into the top 80.

 

The opposite semi-final will be an all-Argentine affair between fourth seed Francisco Cerundolo and fifth seed Sebastian Baez. Baez was a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 winner against Brazil's Thiago Monteiro earlier on Friday, while Cerundolo beat Dusan Lajovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Both Argentines are through to their ninth ATP Tour semi-final (Baez 6-2, Cerundolo 4-4). For Baez, it is his first semi-final showing above the ATP 250 level.

By reaching the semis, Cerundolo secured a return to the Top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday for the first time since November.

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