Cameron Norrie: From Johannesburg and Auckland to Britain’s big Wimbledon hope

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Cameron Norrie’s journey to the Wimbledon semi-finals is an international story of improvement, endurance and competitive desire.

Norrie has been the leading British man since last October but his best grand slam run, which continued with a gutsy five-set victory over David Goffin in the last eight on Tuesday, is a huge milestone.

The 26-year-old is hardly a new name on the scene but his low-key nature and steady rise up the rankings mean his profile is nothing like that of his fellow British number one Emma Raducanu.

Norrie’s background also probably has something to do with that. Born in South Africa to a Scottish father and Welsh mother, the family moved to New Zealand when Norrie was three and settled in Auckland, where he grew up.

His first experience of tennis was on the driveway of the family home, where he would hit a ball around with a sawn-off squash racket.

His parents, David and Helen, were both talented squash players while Helen’s running abilities also rubbed off on Norrie, who played a variety of sports as a child.

Tennis was where he showed the most promise, though, and he was ranked in the world’s top 10 as a junior.

Cameron Norrie celebrates reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals
Cameron Norrie celebrates reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals (John Walton/PA)

His British heritage placed him on the radar of the Lawn Tennis Association and, feeling a lack of support from the New Zealand federation, Norrie made the decision to move to London aged 16, switching allegiance in 2013.

The change initially proved overwhelming, with Norrie telling the PA news agency in 2017: “That was when I stopped enjoying tennis a little bit.

“It was just too much. I was used to being in a normal school and then I came here and I was practising every day. I was staying at the National Tennis Centre and everything was about tennis.

“At the time it didn’t feel the right move for my well-being and I wasn’t the happiest but I’m happy I moved. I think it’s almost impossible to play tennis based in New Zealand.”

The second key move in Norrie’s career came in 2014 when he accepted a scholarship to Texas Christian University in the United States and quickly established himself as a star performer on the prestigious college circuit.

He was also able to live the normal life he craved away from the court, leaving him ready to throw himself into the tennis world.

When he turned professional in 2017, he was the leading player in the college system and ranked inside the world’s top 300 having taken the opportunity to play on the tour when he could.

Having persuaded his former Texas team-mate and coach Facundo Lugones from Argentina to go on the road with him, Norrie quickly thrived in his new environment.

Lacking an obvious weapon but known for his impressive physical endurance and strong mental approach, Norrie broke into the top 100 within a year of going pro.

He made one of the most impressive Davis Cup debuts of all time in February 2018 when he recovered from two sets down to defeat then world number 23 Roberto Bautista Agut on clay in Spain.

He reached his first ATP final in Auckland the following year but 2021 was the season where Norrie unexpectedly established himself at the very top of the game.

He won 52 tour-level singles matches, reaching six finals and winning two, including in Indian Wells, one of the biggest tournaments on the ATP Tour.

From 74 in the rankings at the start of last season, Norrie ended it on the verge of the top 10 and qualified for the ATP Finals as an alternate.

Backing up such an incredible season is notoriously difficult but, after losing his first four matches of the season, Norrie has continued to build, winning his third and fourth ATP Tour titles in Delray Beach and Lyon and cracking the top 10 for the first time in April.

His heavy topspin forehand, which contrasts with his very flat two-handed backhand, has become a real weapon and, with each victory, Norrie’s confidence at the crunch moments of matches has grown.

That has been very apparent here, where Norrie has taken advantage of a well-deserved favourable draw to really make his mark at grand slam level for the first time.

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