14 Jan 2023

Tennis: Let's just pretend Cam Norrie's an official Kiwi today

10:19 am on 14 January 2023
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 03: Cameron Norrie of Great Britain celebrates after defeating Holger Rune of Denmark during their Men's Singles Third Round match on Day Six of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 03, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.   Julian Finney/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JULIAN FINNEY / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Cam Norrie is currently ranked 12 in the world. Photo: JULIAN FINNEY

Opinion - There's been a bit of debate as to whether New Zealand can claim Norrie as one of our own. Now that he's into the ASB Classic men's final for the second time in his career, after a 6-3 6-4 win over American Jenson Brooksby, the answer is that you might as well. Because really, he's the closest we're ever going to get to a permanent tennis success story.

Norrie is currently ranked 12 in the world. That's 553 places higher than Kiranpal Pannu, the highest ranked New Zealand man. In the women's it's even more dire, with Vivian Yang just scraping into the top 800.

If you're not familiar with Norrie's backstory, here it is. If you are, then it's yet another chance to sigh about how New Zealand could have a perennial presence in the ATP, perhaps even challenging for a Grand Slam event win.

It's made for a frustrating time in the media box too, with the hypothetical scenario of Norrie being a proper New Zealand rep, meaning that a contingent of journalists would therefore be going to Melbourne Park, Wimbledon, Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows to follow his progress. But he's officially a Brit, so that's that dream in the bin unless some media outlets decide to dramatically change their thinking.

Even though it was the nicest day by far, Norrie began his semifinal like the rain that has dogged the tournament might return. He blasted a love game past the world number 48 Brooksby, but it wasn't quite the sort of one-way traffic that the final score suggested.

Norrie missed a break opportunity in a marathon first set fourth game but nailed it in an almost as long sixth. Brooksby knew that he had to negate the energy that his opponent was getting from the crowd, so pulled out a range of shots to try and stay in the match.

Unfortunately for Brooksby, by the second set Norrie had found his groove. He missed a match point in the eighth game but sealed it in the tenth, just as the sun was casting a long shadow across the court.

"I was able to use my legs and he dropped off towards the end," Norrie said post-match.

"I was able to back up my lapses in concentration and tidy things up in the second set. I think I played a little bit more of a complete match."

Finally, it seemed, some luck had shone on the 2023 ASB Classic that had suffered terrible weather and an injury to one of its main drawcards. 'Hometown' Cam in the final, which will get some extra eyes on the event.

However, word soon came through that the Frenchman Constant Lestienne had withdrawn from the other semifinal after a shoulder complaint. So, the big crowd that had shown up watched a friendly match between Pannu and Ajeet Rai instead.

While the irony of the only day of the tournament fortnight so far not to have a rain delay still somehow having something go wrong was apparent, the walkover win by Lestienne's compatriot Richard Gasquet does have a silver lining. The matchup between Norrie and the 20-year ATP tour veteran will be an intriguing one, as it will really test Norrie's ability on the big stage. He was last in the final in 2019, where he lost to American Tennys Sandgren.

"I really wanted to win that, it felt like it was a pretty good match up. I was inexperienced and Sandgren played better than me. But I've played enough finals now to feel like I can handle the situation."

While he's playing under a Union Jack flag, Norrie will have a full Stanley Street regarding him as representing the country he grew up in when he steps on the court.

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