Vienna 2021: Cam Norrie beaten by fellow Race-to-Turin contender, Auger-Aliassime

Norrie had three match points in second set tie-break, but loss does not dent Turin hopes

Cameron Norrie
Cameron Norrie (Photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Christian Hofer, for Erste Bank Open)

One by one, the list of contenders for the ATP Finals in Turin, which begins in little more than two weeks’ time, is shrinking.

The outsiders have been whittled away this week in Vienna and St Petersburg, and by Round 3 in the Vienna 500, both Pablo Carreno Busta and Nikoloz Basilashvili were on the way home, while Aslan Karatsev lost some valuable ground with his upset loss to John Millman in the Russian tournament.

But with only 185 points separating No7 in the Race, Casper Ruud, No8 Hubert Hurkacz—already out of the Vienna draw—and the next two, Jannik Sinner and Cameron Norrie, there was no room for slip-ups.

There a buffer of 500 or so points down to the remaining handful of men still in the game, but the first of those was particularly significant: Felix Auger-Aliassime. Significant, because he would take on Norrie in Vienna for a place in the quarter-finals—and add another 45 points to the running total of the winner.

They had met once before, at Indian Wells in 2019, a straight-forward win for the then teenager. But since that loss, Norrie’s career had taken a considerable upward trajectory, from No74 10 months ago to a career-high No14, with 48 match-wins, titles in Los Cabos and then Indian Wells, plus four more finals spanning all surfaces.

He was a formidable, super-fit opponent, as a growing number of top-20 players had found to their cost. But Auger-Aliassime had made his first Major quarter-final at Wimbledon, upped to his first semi at the US Open, though was still to win a title from eight finals.

Norrie got off to the perfect start in the pursuit of the 100th win of his career, and was helped not a little by errors from Auger-Alisassime. The Briton broke to love in the first game, backed up by a love hold, 2-0.

The Canadian got on the board in the third game, but again Norrie held to love, and yet again for 4-2. He continued his dominance with a second break and—remarkably—served it out to love, too: 16/16 on serve.

The Canadian’s serve, on the other hand, may have earned a few aces, but it had also delivered a clutch of double faults. However, Auger-Aliassime got off to a better start in the second set, but he needed to find a way into the swinging leftie serve of Norrie. And a backhand volley finish took the Briton to yet another love hold.

By the time the Canadian served at 2-2, Norrie still had a clean sheet, 24-24, and he pressed Auger-Aliassime hard in the fifth game with a first deuce of the set. It remained on serve, until finally, in the eighth game of set, Norrie conceded a point on serve, and then another as Auger-Aliassime moved in to finish at the net.

They headed to deuce in what became the longest game of thus far, with the Canadian going for the lines and finding some pin-point depth to work his first break point. Norrie finally held after multiple deuces, but Auger-Aliassime had found his range and intensity, and reeled off some great forehands for his own love hold, 5-4.

Norrie got the better of a couple of testing drop-shot exchanged to make it 5-5, but the Canadian was reading the Norrie game better, making fewer errors, and pinning Norrie back. The Briton, though, took it to a tie-break.

The first point showed all Norrie’s speed and accuracy with a slotted forehand pass down the line, and a similar shot brought an error from Auger-Aliassime. Norrie took a 3-0 lead, and some great defensive play got another point against serve, 5-1.

Minutes later, and he served at 6-3 for the match, but saw two chances swept aside by a couple of outstanding Canadian winners: They changed ends at 6-6, and all at once, the Briton was facing set-point. Auger-Aliassime was playing his best tennis of the match, and drew a rare error from Norrie to take it to a decider, 7-6(6).

The Briton had a fight on his hands to hold his opening serve in the third set, and Auger-Aliassime then got a hard-won break to lead, 3-2. Norrie survived a marathon game for 4-3, but he was playing deep behind the court, allowing Auger-Aliassime to dictate with pace to the wide extremes.

A love hold from the Canadian, and Norrie was serving again, and looking ever more frustrated by the explosive ball-striking of his opponent. A couple of errors from Auger-Aliassime took it to deuce in the 10th game—Norrie’s last chance to salvage this match, but to no avail. One final forehand winner, and the Canadian had victory, 6-4, after 2hrs 36mins.

It was a disappointment for the Briton, certainly, with Auger-Aliassime imposing his big-hitting tennis on a Norrie who increasingly fell back to a defensive position, and paid the price. So it is on to the biggest remaining tournament, and the one that could make or break the dreams of all the ATP Finals contenders, the Rolex Paris Masters.

For now, though, Norrie can only watch the results of his rivals in Vienna, and still to play were Ruud, Sinner and Diego Schwartzman.

Race to Turin [scheduled tournaments plus Paris Masters]

Qualified

1. Novak Djokovic 8,370

2. Daniil Medvedev 6,470

3. Stefanos Tsitsipas 5,695 [Vienna 500]

4. Alexander Zverev 5,140 [Vienna 500, Stockholm 250]

5. Andrey Rublev 4,210 [St Petersburg 250]

6. Matteo Berrettini 4,090 [Vienna 500]

****

7. Casper Ruud 3,060 [Vienna 500, Stockholm 250]

[Rafael Nadal not playing]

8. Hubert Hurkacz 2,955 [Stockholm 250]

9. Jannik Sinner 2,880 [Vienna 500, Stockholm 250]

10. Cameron Norrie 2,875 [Stockholm 250] +45

11. Felix Auger-Aliassime 2,420 [Vienna 500, Stockholm 250]

12. Aslan Karatsev 2,280 [Stockholm 250]

[Pablo Carreno Busta 1,925]

[Nikoloz Basilashvili, 1,920]

13. Diego Schwartzman 1,900 [Vienna 500, Stockholm 250]

14. Denis Shapovalov 1,880 [St Petersburg 250, Stockholm 250]

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