Andy Murray may have been kept out of picture by injury but recent months have been a pretty positive time for British men’s tennis.
Kyle Edmund, Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans have been flying the flag high in Murray’s absence, with all three currently on the up and inside the top 70 of the world rankings.
With Murray about to test his newly resurfaced hip on the doubles court, the British singles focus for the grass court season, which starts tomorrow at Queen’s Club, will be on a trio of talents.
They may be primarily focused on their own game, but spending time on tour with each other, practising regularly and playing together in the Davis Cup has helped form a close bond between the group.
It’s a positive atmosphere to be a part of – and hard-hitting left-hander Norrie believes the mutually beneficial environment is a significant factor in the overall upturn.
“It’s nice to have other guys around pushing us and having them on our tails,” the British No2 tells City A.M. “Honestly, I just want the best for those guys and it pushes me to want to do better, when you see your friends doing well. You want to do just as well as them.
“I haven’t seen Andy too much with the injury, but it’s nice to see him back. I hit with Kyle on Thursday and I see him around. I’m probably the closest with Dan Evans, who has just come back. I played doubles with him at the French Open. We have a lot of competitive practises and we get along very well.”
Having come through the American college tennis system when studying sociology at Texas Christian University, Norrie feels at home in a team dynamic.
His biggest breakthrough came in a team setting, too, with his first taste of the Davis Cup proving to be a perfect one. Norrie – then ranked No114 in the world – showed guts and talent to fight back from two sets down to beat Spain’s then-world No23 Roberto Bautista Agut at home and on his preferred clay surface in February 2018.
Now established and much improved following a whirlwind first two years as a professional, the world No50 has set his sights on a place in Great Britain’s squad for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
“I’d love to play at the Olympics and I think it’d be pretty special to be there, learning from other athletes, seeing what they’re doing and being amongst the best in the world,” the 23-year-old explains.
“It’d be nice to have peers around you who want the best for you and the camaraderie of having other players and athletes around you – it’d be amazing, definitely something I’d cherish for the rest of my life if I get to experience it.”
This is an exciting period for Norrie. He started 2019 by reaching his first ATP final at the Auckland International, losing to Tennys Sandgren, before climbing up the rankings to a career-high 41 in May through sustained solid form. And although he endured a poor French Open, losing in the first round to world No273 Elliot Benchetrit last month to slip back to No50, overall he feels he made a great deal of progress on clay courts.
Considering he was merely the top-ranked male college tennis player in the US two years ago and only turned professional in June 2017, it’s been a meteoric rise to his current position.
“If you told me two years ago that I’d be ranked where I am right now I would have taken it,” he says.
“Honestly there have been lots of ups and downs. There are so many more ways to go for me in tennis – there are still 45 guys in the world who I want to get better than. It’s going to be a long process but I’m excited and I feel really motivated and driven.”
With his form “really good”, Norrie is excited to make the switch to the grass courts. He faces a tough first-round tie at the Fever Tree Championships against the big-serving world No8 Kevin Anderson tomorrow afternoon, but it’s a few miles down the road at Wimbledon, where he is yet to win a match, where the biggest motivation lies.
“I don’t really mind too much about how far I go [at Queen’s],” Norrie says. “I just want to compete as hard as I can and just improve and learn from whatever happens this week, and hopefully take some confidence heading towards Wimbledon, because that’s the main focus as the bigger tournament.
“It’s a grand slam, a huge tournament, with so much history there, so it’s pretty special for me. I’m healthy, feeling confident and I’m hitting the ball so well in practice, so I’ve taken care of the preparation side of things.”
After making huge strides in the last two years, this summer could be the one when Cameron Norrie becomes a household name.
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