If Emma Raducanu was an overnight sensation then this year’s British success story in men’s tennis, Cameron Norrie, has been a slow burner.
Norrie started 2021 ranked 74th in the world but following his landmark triumph at Indian Wells on Sunday is now inside the top 15 for the first time.
The former US college No1, the first Briton to win an event seen as one of the biggest beyond the Grand Slams, has also overtaken Dan Evans as the country’s top male player in the post-Andy Murray era.
It may not be an achievement to match Raducanu’s US Open win but it is significant nonetheless.
“I still don’t really know what I’m experiencing,” he said. “It was an amazing couple weeks and I’m so happy with how I treated all the occasions, all the big moments, all the matches. I’m so happy to win my biggest title.”
It has been a long and unspectacular road for the 26-year-old, who was born in South Africa to British parents and spent most of his childhood in New Zealand.
Having turned professional in 2017, Norrie cracked the top 100 in 2018 and, after reaching a first ATP Tour final, the top 50 in 2019.
In 2020 he reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, but this year he has accelerated his progress markedly.
He has reached five finals, including at Queen’s Club just before Wimbledon, and won his first ATP Tour title, at the Los Cabos Open in Mexico in July.
Norrie made the third round of three more Grand Slams, only losing to Rafa Nadal – twice – and Roger Federer.
In winning Indian Wells, he became the first man to do so when ranked outside the world’s top 25 for more than a decade.
“I think doing it this way, getting slowly, slowly better every year, improving little things, I don’t think I’ve missed anything, made any big jumps,” he said.
“I’ve been working extremely hard. I’ve got a lot of great people around me who are wanting the best for me. We’re taking care of all the little details on the court, off the court, and we all have the same goal in mind.”
It is tempting to look for a catalyst for the left-hander’s improvement, but he has had the same coach, Facundo Lugones, for four years.
If there has been a turning point then it may have come at the start of lockdown last year, when he moved back in with his parents in Auckland.
Norrie took six weeks off tennis, worked on his fitness with hilly 10km runs in 36 minutes and returned to the circuit in terrific shape.
A little more than a year later, the hard work has paid off and he is now close to qualifying for next month’s ATP Finals in Turin.
The burn may have been slow but, it seems, Norrie’s career is starting to catch light.