Cameron Norrie digs deep to sink Goffin and set up Djokovic semi-final

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

In the first grand slam quarter-final of Cameron Norrie’s blossoming career he had every reason to feel incensed by how things seemed to be progressing. Faced with the opportunity of a lifetime, his nerves early on were plain for all to see. He constantly dropped the ball short. His forehand leaked too many errors. All the while, David Goffin, his far more experienced opponent, picked him apart.

But even as this most important match was falling out of his control and from his grasp Norrie carried himself as he always does. He remained composed as games fell away from him, furiously searching for a solution to his troubles. After successful points he kept his chest high and his fist pumped, offering himself constant encouragement.

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Related: Wimbledon quarter-finals: Norrie beats Goffin in five sets, Jabeur through – live!

Norrie fought hard until the final point, as he always does, and he was rewarded for his resilience with the greatest win of his life. After trailing by two sets to one on No 1 Court, he recovered to defeat his Belgian opponent 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 and reach the first grand slam semi-final of his career, at Wimbledon.

Already the fourth British man to reach the ATP top 10, Norrie continues to mark himself as one of the best players from these shores. He is the fourth British man in the Open era to reach a Wimbledon semi‑final after Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Roger Taylor.

As he reflected on his achievements on the court after his victory Norrie was on the verge of tears. “I think just winning a match like this, I’m in shock. I don’t know what to say now,” he said.

“I have flashbacks of all the hard work and all the sacrifices I have had to make and it’s definitely paid off – and it feels pretty good.”

David Goffin in action during his men’s singles quarter-final match against Cameron Norrie.
David Goffin led two sets to one but saw his semi-final hopes ended in the fifth set. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Despite being unseeded, Goffin’s ranking of No 58 belies his status as a former top-10 player whose ranking has fallen due to injury. Early on he was exceptional. He has built a wonderful career by making up for his slight frame through his swift foot speed and the magic in his hands. Few players in the world can constantly meet the ball early and change directions off both wings with such impeccable timing. He pulled Norrie from side to side, lasering down-the-line winners on both wings as he took a 6-4, 4-3 lead.

Norrie’s doggedness eventually yielded a breakthrough in the second set as he recovered the break and then took the set with a supreme return game at 6-5. But Goffin quickly resumed control of the baseline and steamrolled through the third set.

Norrie continued to work, though. After digging out a hold for 4-3 in the fourth set, he began to tap into the raucous crowd, orchestrating the audience as he brought spectators to their feet.

The wall of noise from No 1 Court left its mark on Goffin in the long game that followed as he meekly netted a forehand to relinquish the break. Shortly afterwards Norrie served out the set.

The crowd was booming as the fifth set began and they stayed with Norrie as he saved a break point in the opening game and then took precious care of each service game until 5-5.

Cameron Norrie fires off a serve to David Goffin.
Cameron Norrie fires off a serve to David Goffin. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

At that crucial point Norrie made his stand, locking down his game, chasing every last ball and refusing to miss. Under the weight of the moment, the crowd and particularly Norrie’s unrelenting intensity, Goffin finally broke down and conceded the decisive break with a series of errors. Without hesitation Norrie served out the win.

“Wasn’t going my way from the beginning and wasn’t feeling good and feeling the ball,” Norrie said. “That was all credit to David.

“He was moving me, playing really good, and I couldn’t find my game. I managed to stay as patient as I could. It was all adrenalin. Used my legs at the end and tried to put the ball in the court.”

As the crowd of 10,000 took in Norrie’s achievement, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge present, chants of his surname rang out around the stadium. “Honestly, speechless. Can’t even talk,” he said. “So happy to get through with such a great team, such great family and friends.”

From the beginning of the tournament, since the defeat of the seventh seed, Hubert Hurkacz, left Norrie as the highest‑ranked player in his section from the second round onwards, this was a significant opportunity.

Norrie has handled each moment supremely well and against a player with more talent at his fingertips he demonstrated all of the qualities that have guided him to the top.

Related: Novak Djokovic overturns two-set deficit to surpass Sinner at Wimbledon

“He was such a great fighter,” Goffin said afterwards. “That’s why he’s in the top 10. He’s fighting so hard. He’s very consistent. He’s very solid and never gives up. That was the case today.”

Eighteen months ago, when Norrie was ranked 74th and seemed in the midst of a successful but unspectacular career, even those who valued his abilities did not envision him as a top-10 seed confidently navigating his way to the final rounds of Wimbledon.

But here he is. Having arrived here desperately trying to pass the third round of a grand slam tournament for the first time, he has unlocked so much more.

Norrie will now face one of the greatest challenges in this sport, the six-time champion and top seed, Novak Djokovic, with a Wimbledon final on the line. As he always does, he will remain composed, he will fight for every point and then he will see where he lands.