Over the course of his glistening summer, Cameron Norrie’s steady, gradual improvements have taken him to heights most never thought were possible two years ago. As he established himself as a Wimbledon semi-finalist, an undeniable top-10 player and an opponent who will grind you to dust and relish every moment of it, one of his greatest qualities has been the consistently high base level of his game. He has played few poor matches and he rarely takes bad losses.
In his first appearance in the fourth round of the US Open against one of the best players in the world, though, Norrie threw in a rare poor performance and was punished for it. Norrie fell routinely, with only a brief, angry surge at the close, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Andrey Rublev.
“I started the match very well, very relaxed and playing good, serving well,” said Norrie. “I felt maybe a little bit too relaxed and too low energy. I don’t know why. But, yeah, I went through a stage in the second set, I wasn’t hitting my backhand, I was missing a lot. Errors on my backhand side was not like myself.”
After a solid start from both players on Armstrong, Norrie became progressively flat as his unforced error count rose. By the end of the first set, he had struck 12 unforced errors, exactly double the number of Rublev. Norrie particularly struggled with his range and timing on his backhand wing, normally a rock-solid stroke, which floated errors long throughout.
Across the net, Rublev did not let up. He was extremely sharp and focused every time Norrie threatened to pull himself back into the match and establish some momentum. Even as rain began to fall over Queens in set two, leading to two long delays, Rublev eased through to victory.
“It can happen. I felt like Rublev was the better player, and he really didn’t give me a chance whenever I did have momentum, to kind of get back in the match, and he was very solid. Yeah, I did some things very well today but not enough,” said Norrie.
In the end, Norrie produced one of his worst performances of the summer at an inopportune time. Despite performing far below his high standards, though, one difficult day does not dim the shine around Norrie and the immense progress he has made. There will be no time to dwell on the defeat as the group stages of the Davis Cup Finals begin in Glasgow next week.