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While Carlos Alcaraz claims the spotlight, Cameron Norrie basks in his own breakthrough
The Brit captured his first Masters title at the BNP Paribas Open last fall and possesses a formidable clay-court game.
Published May 11, 2022
WATCH: Norrie pushed eventual Madrid champ Alcaraz to three sets last week.
At any other time, Cameron Norrie might be a big breakthrough story on the ATP Tour.
Entering Rome a year ago, he was ranked No. 70. Now he's No. 11, having cracked the Top 10 a few weeks ago and won his first Masters title at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open in October.
Though his three ATP titles have all been on hard courts, he's finding increasing success on clay, reaching the third round of the 2021 French Open. This season, Norrie got to the quarterfinals of Barcelona and the third round of Madrid, going three sets against eventual champ Carlos Alcaraz.
"Growing up in New Zealand, I didn't really play on clay at all. There's no clay courts," said the 26-year old Norrie, who plays for Britain. "I think the first time I ever played a match on clay was when I was 16 or 17 years old. It was pretty new for me then."
But he learned to play on it and now says it can be a good surface for him. "I feel like I have a really good game [for clay], being lefty, having a very heavy forehand," he said. "Forehand has improved a lot.
"I feel like I'm improving week to week. Yeah, for me it just takes the beginning, I'm not so comfortable with the movement side. I feel like I'm moving better and better, feeling the clay under my feet better. Still got a lot of things I can improve on, though.
"I’m especially really happy with my performance last week [in Madrid], playing close with one of the best players [Alcaraz], if not the best player, in the world at the moment. Yeah, exactly the matches I need. I feel like I have a good game on the clay."
Growing up in New Zealand, I didn't really play on clay at all. There's no clay courts. I think the first time I ever played a match on clay was when I was 16 or 17 years old. It was pretty new for me then...I feel like I have a really good game [for clay], being lefty, having a very heavy forehand. Cameron Norrie
But the surge of 19-year-old Alcaraz, who has now won Miami, Barcelona and Madrid this season, isn't helping Norrie get a lot of attention for his own climb. Norrie has now played against Alcaraz three times in nine months, losing each time.
Following his first-round win in Rome, he was repeatedly asked about the Spanish teenager.
"Feel like my interviews are 50 percent about me and 50 percent about Carlos," said Norrie, smiling.
But Norrie is also among those high on not just Alcaraz's potential, but his present level.
"He's really believing in himself. Every time in the big moments he comes up with something better than me and better than the other guys," Norrie said, pointing to all the different ways the new No. 6 can win points.
''He's got the drop shot. He also has a big forehand. He can go anywhere, angle, line. You have to be ready for anything. He is always picking the right shots and making very good decisions in the bigger moments. Very complete game already.
"He also has the maturity and confidence to back it up in those big moments, with everyone kind of talking about him, saying he's the next [Rafael] Nadal, getting all these big comparisons. Not only is he going out and executing, he's backing it up. It's cool to see someone so young doing that."
And with Alcaraz withdrawing from Rome to rest, Norrie and the rest of the field will have a chance to get some of the spotlight this week.