The former college star Cameron Norrie has played the role of professor this past week at the Western & Southern Open, schooling three 19-year-olds on his way to the Cincinnati semi-finals. In a thrilling quarter-final showdown, the British contender gave Carlos Alcaraz a lesson in staying the course as he answered the the third seed’s comeback bid with a turnaround of his own in a 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-4 victory.
Norrie, 26, who had beaten two more teenagers in Holger Rune and Ben Shelton, surrendered a 4-1 lead in the second set before battling back from 3-1 down in the decider with an unflinching performance in the face of the Spaniard’s charge. He earned the decisive break in the set’s ninth game.
While Alcaraz was below his best for stretches of the evening, he produced one of the points of the season at 5-4 in the second-set tie-break. The electric exchange sparked the 19-year-old into life, but Norrie never folded.
As he showed in his earlier three-setter against Andy Murray, one of the fundamental qualities that has driven Norrie towards the top of his game is his composure. In that match against his compatriot, Norrie’s head did not drop, his shoulders did not slouch and he emerged from his bathroom break after the first set still positive. After three tough, physical sets against the former world No 1, Norrie progressed.
While the Briton did not play the flashy brand of tennis that Alcaraz used to beat him in each of their previous three meetings, he frustrated his opponent with his steady game on centre court, patiently grinding from the baseline and capitalising on his hard-earned opportunities to step into the court.
“It’s tough because he can take the racquet completely out of your hand,” Norrie said, discussing his 25 winners and 30 errors in the match. “When he’s dictating with the forehand it’s really tough and you’re running a lot.
“I just had to try to put the ball in awkward positions in the court,” Norrie explained. “I managed to serve well, I improved a lot on my previous matches.”
The Briton has moved up two spots to No 9 in the ATP live rankings this week, and risen three spots to 11th in the ATP Live Race to Turin.
With the loss, Alcaraz drops to 17-4 at the ATP Masters 1000s this season and loses the chance to claim his third title at that level on the year — a feat that would have lifted him to a new career-high of world No 2.
Instead, he remains at No 4 in the live rankings, leaving an opening for Stefanos Tsitsipas to pass him with the Cincinnati title. However, Alcaraz will have a chance to rise to world No 1 at the US Open starting on 29 August.
Norrie will play Borna Coric in his semi-final after the Croat saw off Félix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 6-4, 6-4. Tsitsipas, who could manage only a single break chance in a three-set slugfest with John Isner but went through 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, will face Daniil Medvedev. The world No 1 beat Taylor Fritz 7-6 (1), 6-3.