An Advanced Edition on Rafael Nadal was the obvious way to end our focus on heavy favorites, but the Spaniard’s unfortunate withdrawal has created the opportunity to pay special attention to the lone men’s semifinal taking place on Friday between Novak Djokovic and Cameron Norrie.

While Novak needs no introduction, Norrie is still a fairly new face at the top of the game, having only made his Top 10 debut earlier this spring. The 26-year-old has enjoyed a rise up the rankings that was first steady and then meteoric, highlighted by his maiden Masters 1000 win at the BNP Paribas Open that he parlayed into an alternate appearance at the ATP Finals in Turin.

Still, a major Slam result hitherto eluded the South African-born, New Zealand-raised Brit, making it only fitting his breakthrough should come at the All England Club, where he has survived a pair of five-setters en route to the semifinals.

Get to know the No. 9 seed before he takes Centre Court to play the biggest match of his career.


The Basics

The 26-year-old has indeed been around the world and I-I-I hardly know where to begin when it comes to his interesting origin story. After spending his teen years in Great Britain, he opted to make a third major move by attending Texas Christian University to play college tennis with the Horned Frogs.

In between studying sociology, he became a three-time All-American and made history for TCU by becoming their first student to become the top-ranked college player in the United States. Primed for a perfect finish to his collegiate career, Norrie ended his undefeated 10-0 run in Big 12 competition to turn pro in 2017, when he made his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon as a main-draw wild card against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Coached by Horned Frogs teammate Facundo Lugones, Norrie won three ATP Challenger titles over the next three months and ended the following season ranked inside the Top 100. He began 2019 by making his first ATP final nearby his childhood home in Auckland.

Though the global pandemic briefly interrupted his rise, the Brit became a fixture in major competition by 2021, making three Grand Slam third-round appearances at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon—taking a set off Roger Federer at the latter.

“Regardless of the situation, it was amazing to play against him, to experience that, to have that kind of atmosphere out there on Centre Court,” he said despite the defeat. “I loved every minute of it.”

I was thinking about when I was a kid and watching guys on TV making the quarterfinals and thinking, ‘Wow, this looks so tough to do, and there's almost zero chance I'm going to do that.' But just to actually be doing it and to be living it and experiencing it is very cool and pretty crazy, actually. Cameron Norrie

The Latest

It all came together during that oddly-scheduled Indian Wells, postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but nonetheless became fruitful ground for the No. 21-seeded Norrie. Fresh off a runner-up finish in San Diego the week before, he battled through a string of three-setters against Tennys Sandregn, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Tommy Paul.

He really hit his stride by the quarterfinal stage, dropping just two games to Diego Schwartzman and knocking out Grigor Dimitrov to reach his first Masters final.

Taking on Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final, Norrie rallied from a set and a break down and won eight of the final nine games to launch himself into the Top 15.

“I still don't really know what I'm experiencing,” said the speechless Norrie. “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.”

Norrie has continued to start 2022, winning a pair of titles on hard courts and clay, and has made the most of an uneven draw at Wimbledon, roaring back from two sets to one down to defeat David Goffin and become the fourth Brit to reach a singles semifinal at SW19.

“I was thinking about when I was a kid and watching guys on TV making the quarterfinals and thinking, ‘Wow, this looks so tough to do, and there's almost zero chance I'm going to do that,’” he said after the match. “But just to actually be doing it and to be living it and experiencing it is very cool and pretty crazy, actually.

“Now I have gone one further in the semis, so I think can take a lot of confidence from that.”


Why It Matters

Andy Murray has provided Great Britain with well over a decade of excellence, including two Olympic gold medals and three Grand Slams, and while the injury-addled 35-year-old remains in the hunt for his best tennis, his absence from the Top 10 left a power vacuum that Norrie has seemingly come from nowhere ready to fill.

With a solid lefty game and a backhand reminiscent of Jimmy Connors, Norrie plays eye-catching tennis that has quickly won over the British public. Though he found himself down two sets to Jannik Sinner, Djokovic is an undeniable hurdle. Norrie decisively lost their last match in Turin, but the Centre Court crowd will likely do all they can to lift their man to the occasion—just as they did when he played Goffin.

“I think it's obviously one of the toughest tasks in tennis,” he said of the top seed. “I'd say grass is his favorite surface and his record is unbelievable here at Wimbledon. It's going to be tough.

“I'm going to have to improve a lot of things from today. I don't think I'm going to have the chance to lose focus like I did today. I think I was a little bit fortunate. I, a couple of times, lost a little bit of focus and managed to get it back. I think with him, there is no room for that.

“Now looking forward to taking it to him and seeing the level he brings.”

Might this be a week when we—in the most British sense of the word—win Wimbledon? We will see how many more surprises Norrie has left.