In the first grand slam quarter-final of his blossoming career, Cameron Norrie 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, his far more experienced opponent picked him apart.
But even as the biggest match of his career was falling out of his control and from his grasp, Norrie carried himself as he always does. He remained composed as points 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.
Norrie fought hard until the final point, as he always does, and in the process he pulled off the greatest win of his life, recovering from a two sets to one deficit to defeat David Goffin 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 and reach the first grand slam semi-final of his career on No 1 Court at Wimbledon.
Despite his ranking of No 58 Goffin is a former top-10 player. A supremely talented ball-striker, he has struggled desperately with injuries during what should have been the peak years of his career.
The early stages made the challenge instantly clear. While Norrie was tight, with three previous slam quarter-finals to call upon, Goffin was ready. He has built a wonderful career by making up for his slight frame through the lethal combination of 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.
From the beginning, Goffin was in control. He pulled Norrie from side to side, snatching time away from him with and he was far more effective at ending their baseline exchanges, snapping abrupt down-the line winners at will. He took a 6-4, *4-3 lead and moved steadily towards victory.
But Norrie’s demeanour was unchanged and his doggedness yielded a breakthrough. First he took advantage of a poor Goffin service game to break back immediately, then after heaping pressure on the Belgian at 6-5, he broke serve with his best stretch of tennis during the set, nailing his flat cross court backhand and landing returns at Goffin’s feet as he snatched the set.
Goffin quickly resumed control of the baseline and breezed through the third set, but Norrie kept on fighting as he took care of his service games. 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 after, 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 to stand at 5-5. Then Norrie made his stand, locking down his game and refusing to miss, chasing down vicious forehands and drop shots alike. Under the weight of the moment, the crowd and particularly Norrie’s unrelenting intensity, Goffin finally broke down and sprayed a forehand long, allowing Norrie to serve out an enormous win.
From the beginning of the tournament, ever since the seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz was vanquished, leaving Norrie as the highest ranked player in his section, this was a significant opportunity. Norrie has handled each moment supremely well and against a player with more talent at his fingertips, he ground him down.
Eighteen months ago, when Norrie was ranked 74th and seemed to be 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 at Wimbledon desperately trying to pass the third round of a grand slam for the, he has unlocked so much more. He 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.