Over the weekend, Cameron Norrie could barely avoid the sweeping waves that landed at the fifth-seeded’s feet en route to a loss in the final of the Aegon International. Looking ahead, the British number one insists that a disappointing weekend won’t change his outlook on the year, as he attempts to dethrone tennis’ two first seeds, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, on the clay of Wimbledon.
“I think sometimes over the last few weeks you overthink the matches, and when you try to go into them too seriously,” he said. “I mean, I came out on court on Saturday, still in that same frame of mind. I just tried to relax and enjoy the moment.”
While Norrie has been a bright spot on British tennis in recent weeks, he’s all too familiar with the feeling of being unwelcome. He represented Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Olympics but has played just one tour-level match since his last appearance at the tournament in Cincinnati two years ago. He beat Leonardo Mayer 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Open’s first round last week, but, by most accounts, wasn’t at his best.
“Obviously we all know that we get that stigma about big matches in tennis,” Norrie told the Sunday Times. “You get so over-hyped, because the crowds are so crazy for Roger or Rafa. I don’t think it ever feels right playing in a big match, because it just seems like it should be some other guy. The way it’s always handled really annoys me.”
One of Norrie’s main rivals for the No. 1 spot, Canadian Denis Shapovalov, echoed similar sentiment ahead of the French Open, where he reached the fourth round as a qualifier. “First, it’s about not getting treated like a spare part,” Shapovalov said. “Tennis fans, we don’t play the world No. 1 and the world No. 2, you’re playing the guy who’s ranked 55. It’s about performing consistently, getting to good tournaments, fighting through tough times and having fun.”
So far, Norrie hasn’t done that. He made it as far as a second-round match at Wimbledon last year, but as a wild card this time around, has the underdog tag thrust upon him. He’s still young, but he could see his career take a turn in the coming weeks.
“It’s going to be exciting and probably nerve-wracking when you get that first round match,” he said. “But when I get there, I just want to enjoy it. I think that’s the only way to do it.”