Indian Wells 2021: Cam Norrie reaches quarter-finals to keep Turin in his sights

Hurkacz wins, Ruud loses, but both stay among top eight—for now

Cameron Norrie
Cameron Norrie (Photo: Marianne Bevis)

The 96 have become 16, with only one of those 16 unseeded. And although four of the top 10 seeds did not make it through, the cream of the crop did.

The only three in the draw who have already qualified for the fast-approaching ATP Finals—No1 seed Daniil Medvedev, No2 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No3 Alexander Zverev—are top of the Indian Wells pile, and with good reason. Each has won at Masters title this year already, each has made the final of a Major in the last 12 months—Medvedev won the US Open title just a month ago—and all three have previously won the ATP Finals crown.

These are, then, the men to beat this week, and the more they win, the fewer points are available for the chasing pack.

With just four spots left, plus two reserves, Nos7 to 10 in the Race, Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner, were among the strongest contenders left in the last 16, especially since two above them in the Race, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini, lost in the third round. So with the Paris Masters still to come, plus at least one more indoor tournament before Turin, the pressure was perhaps less insistent.

But there were others further down the Race who could not afford to lose in the desert. Taylor Fritz and Grigor Dimitrov had only remote chances, and losses in the fourth round would end their campaign on the spot.

Alex de Minaur ended Cristian Garin’s chances by beating him in Round 3, and the same would happen to him and to Karen Khachanov should they fail to reach the quarters.

For a couple more of the last 16, their chances hung in the balance. If Diego Schwartzman and Nikoloz Basilashvili did not beat Ruud and Khachanov respectively, they would be hoping that those above them did not gain significant points from here on in. Their respective positions, then, made the tussle between Khachanov and Basilashvili a make or break one.

For Aslan Karatsev, No12 in the Race*, and Briton Cam Norrie at No13, the prospects were tantalising.

The Russian No19 seed Karatsev made a stunning start to 2021 with a run to the Australian semis via qualifying, ranked 114, and then winning Dubai. His results had fallen off since, but he beat Hurkacz, this year’s Miami champion, in San Diego two weeks ago.

However, the tall Pole got his revenge in the hot Indian Wells conditions in just 63 minutes, 6-1, 6-3, and would await the winner of the contest between Medvedev and Dimitrov.

They were followed onto court by Norrie, who played the No60 ranked Tommy Paul, with both men in search of their first Masters quarter-final. Paul was coming off his biggest career win over Rublev while Norrie scored his eighth top-20 win of the season over the No19 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

For Norrie, that was just the latest in an increasingly impressive 2021, which began at a ranking of 74 and notched up a string of quarter-finals. Then he made the final in Estoril and in Lyon, then at Queen’s in front of his home crowd, where he narrowly lost out to Matteo Berrettini.

A month on, and he broke his duck to win the title in Los Cabos, and broke inside the top 30, and ahead of Indian Wells, made the final, in San Diego, where he lost to Ruud.

Among the big names that Norrie had picked off this year were some who clustered with him in the Race—Karatsev, Khachanov, Garin, Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov. He was well and truly in the mix.

Norrie got the first break in third game and held for a 3-1 lead. Another break increased his lead, though Norrie had to face down three break points to make it 5-1. A volley winner, and the Briton worked set point, but Paul held and forced Norrie to serve it out.

The American, with plenty of vocal support on Court 2, kept up the attack—and he defied the slow court to come to the net on a regular basis. He broke Norrie, and then held again for 5-4. But Norrie made no mistake this time. He served it out 6-4, having made just five unforced errors in the set.

However, Paul had gained some momentum and he turned that into a fast start to the second set, a break for a 3-0 lead. It did not take long, though, for Norrie to level things up with his own surge in form, defending superbly, finding the lines, and keeping his opponent on the run. He broke back, and consolidated with a love hold, 3-3.

Paul pressed hard, keeping the pace fast and aggressive with some great angles to force Norrie out of the court, and the American earned his reward with a timely break for the set, 6-4.

The third set began with an exchange of breaks, but Norrie’s serve in particular was starting to cause concern. A marathon third game looked increasingly crucial, lasting almost 13 minutes and offering up 11 break points to Norrie, who finally converted for a 2-1 lead, but again it was short-lived. Indeed the first five games went against serve, via some lung-busting rallies, before Norrie finally held for 4-2.

Now with the wind in his sails, he began to create some wonderful angles to run Paul ragged, yet seemed never to run out of energy. He broke again and served out the match, 6-2, to earn 90 more points, and a quarter-final contest against Schwartzman.

For it was the Argentine who kept his Turin campaign alive with a 6-3, 6-3 win over a tired Ruud. The Norwegian had certainly put in the hard yards in the latter half of the season, and was looking for his 50th win of the season after winning his fifth title in San Diego. He had fitted in both Davis Cup and the Laver Cup after the US Open, too.

Little wonder, perhaps, that the 22-year-old needed a medical time-out for his leg during this match, but now he has a short break before switching to the indoors in Vienna and Paris, for one final push to Turin.

Against the odds, against one of the form players of the American hard-court swing, Dimitrov beat Medvedev, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in a result that carried more weight for the Bulgarian: It keeps him in the Race—albeit by the slenderest of threads.

*With Nadal’s withdrawal, this will automatically be one place higher

Race to Turin

Qualified

1. Novak Djokovic 8,370

2. Daniil Medvedev 6,470 [or 6,560]

3. Stefanos Tsitsipas 5,560 [5,650 with R4 win]

4. Alexander Zverev 5,005 [5,095 with R4 win]

****

5. Andrey Rublev 4,165

6. Matteo Berrettini 4,000

7. Casper Ruud 3,015

[Rafael Nadal 2,985]

8. Hubert Hurkacz 2,955

9. Jannik Sinner 2,595 [2,685 with R4 win]

10. Felix Auger-Aliassime 2,330

11. Aslan Karatsev 2,030

12. Cameron Norrie 2,010

13. Pablo Carreno Busta 1,925

14. Denis Shapovalov 1,835

15. Diego Schwartzman 1,705

16. Roberto Bautista Agut 1,630

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