Cinch Championships 2021: Cam Norrie keeps up winning ways to reach third final of year
In Birmingham, Heather Watson becomes British woman into singles semis in 29 years; loses to Jabeur
Only one Briton has won the prestigious, and very large, Queen’s trophy in the Open era, and that is five-time champion Andy Murray.
The former world No1, Wimbledon, and Olympic champion made a much-heralded, and confidence-boosting return to Queen’s this week after years of injury problems and hip surgery, but he could not get past the top seed, world No9 Matteo Berrettini.
Then the current British No1 Dan Evans also failed to beat Berrettini in the quarter-finals. The big question in a packed Saturday schedule that forced two of the quarter-finalists to finish their third match just hours before their semis, was whether the No2 Briton, 41-ranked Cam Norrie, could also set up a contest against the big Italian.
The 25-year-old Brit was arguably the best British performer so far this year. He came to Queen’s with final runs in Lyon and Estoril, plus semis in Delray Beach, and quarters in Barcelona and Acapulco.
At the start of the week, Norrie won his first match at the famous club at his fourth attempt, beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Then he had to take on another form player, No5 seed Aslan Karatsev, who made his first Major semi in Australia—via qualifying—then won his first title in Dubai, and reached the final on Belgrade’s clay.
Karatsev counted among his scalps wins over Novak Djokovic, Diego Schwartzman, Andrey Rublev, and Daniil Medvedev, all top-10 players. But at Queen’s, Norrie beat the Russian convincingly, 7-5, 6-2. This took the Briton to a personal-best 27th win of the year and into his first grass-court tour-level quarter-final since Eastbourne in 2018.
Unfortunately, he then played compatriot teenager, Jack Draper, though that did ensure at least one home player into the semis. It was the more experienced, super-fit Norrie who advanced to play the No2 seed Denis Shapovalov—one of those men who had to complete their quarter-final just a couple of hours before the semis.
The young Canadian never looked truly comfortable, slipped a couple of times, and took a medical time-out in the second set for treatment to his thigh, and with Norrie playing such strong and confident tennis, wrong-footing his opponent, and dragging him wide with his leftie serve, the Briton bounced back from a break at the start of the first set to dominate most of the plays, 7-5, 6-3.
It was certainly a crowd-pleasing match for the biggest attendance of the week. He said:
“I think I played very, very well today, I was extremely clutch on some of the big points… I am so pleased to be through to the final here, I can’t even describe it. It has not really sunk in yet. It is nice to get over the line there, and all credit to Denis, it was a tough match.
“It is a huge tournament for me and one of my biggest achievements so far, so I couldn’t be more pleased with myself. Let’s see if I can win one more tomorrow.”
It took Norrie to 29-12 on the season, and made him the first Briton to reach the Queen’s final since Murray in 2016. Should he go on to win, it will make him the only Briton in the Open era, aside from Murray, to lift the Queen’s trophy.
For now, Norrie’s third final of 2021 will take him to a career-high 34. Should he win his first career title, he would break the top 30. Either way, he knows he is within touching distance of a seeding at Wimbledon next week—a real coup for a man ranked 90 at the start of the year.
Of course, talk of a title is optimistic and premature. Norrie said of the task ahead:
“I’ve watched him a little bit throughout the week, he has a huge serve, he likes a drop shot… Maybe I’ll talk to Dan and Andy see if I can pick up some tips! I saw him play earlier today and he had a really good day so it’s not going to be easy.”
World No9 Berrettini has continued to make a strong case for making a deep Wimbledon run after reaching the final at Queen’s without dropping a set.
The Italian, playing the London tournament for the first time, has made impressive progress to the final via Murray, Evans and now Alex de Minaur, 6-4, 6-4, showing that he is not just a big serve-and-forehand player. His backhand slice, and confidence overhead, kept the nimble Australian at bay in a fast-paced match that lasted just an hour and 20 minutes.
Berrettini has won a grass title once before, in Stuttgart in 2019, but this would be his biggest career title thus far.
Watson makes milestone run in Birmingham, but beaten in semis
Heather Watson became the first British woman to reach the last four at this week’s Viking Birmingham Classic since Jo Durie in 1992. She did so by beating Donna Vekic, 6-4, 6-3, at the Edgbaston Priory Club on Saturday, but then had to take on No2 seed Ons Jabeur later the same day to try and become the first Briton to reach the singles final of the tournament.
However, Jabeur, ranked 24 in the world, ended her campaign, 6-3, 6-3. The Tunisian will play Daria Kasatkina in the final after the Russian beat Coco Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-4.