During his scintillating summer, Cameron Norrie’s steady, incremental improvements took him to heights he never thought possible. While he established himself as a Wimbledon semi-finalist, an undeniable top-10 player and an opponent who will grind you to dust and savor every moment of it, one of his greatest qualities has been the level of consistently high base of his game. He has played few mediocre games and he rarely suffers bad defeats.
In his first US Open fourth round appearance against one of the best players in the world, Norrie put on a rare poor performance and was punished for it. Norrie fell steadily, with only a brief surge of anger at the end, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Andrey Rublev.
It couldn’t have been a closer match on paper, the seventh seed against the ninth. They had taken contrasting paths until the fourth round. While Norrie hadn’t dropped a set, Rublev survived a five-set first-round brawl against Laslo Djere and then had a brilliant match against Denis Shapovalov, edging out the Canadian in a fifth-set tiebreaker.
Such a workload could have depleted Rublev’s energy levels before week two, but instead it sharpened his game after a tough summer. He arrived to a packed Louis Armstrong stadium.
In the early stages, both were solid on serve and no break points were generated in the first seven games. But at 4-4, Norrie missed a series of routine backhands, allowing Rublev the decisive first break of the set.
As the match continued, Norrie became progressively flat. He had naturally hoped to drag Rublev into long physical rallies and avoid unforced errors from Rublev’s relentless aggression, but it was Norrie who pulled out of their rallies early with errors. By the end of the first set, he had hit 12 unforced errors, exactly double Rublev’s number. Norrie particularly struggled with his reach and timing on his backhand wing, normally a rock-solid shot, which floated mistakes for a long time.
On the other side of the net, Rublev didn’t let go. He was extremely sharp and focused whenever Norrie threatened to pull out of the game and build momentum. In a long 2-1 draw in the second set, Norrie generated his first break point of the match. Rublev responded by landing a big first serve and then landing a forehand winner inside out.
Even when the rain started falling on Queens and the roof was erected, its momentum continued. Rublev facilitated the second set, then Norrie conceded the third with two straight forehand errors.
Moving quickly towards the exit, Norrie finally broke down. At 3-2, 0-15 on Rublev’s serve, Norrie responded to his 33rd error of the day by throwing his racquet to the ground, which cracked and earned a code violation. It was a rare outburst of anger for such a calm player and it immediately provoked a response as he angrily ripped three points in a row and collected the break. But it didn’t last long. As Norrie obediently lost serve at 4-4 in the third, Rublev held on to win.
In the end, Norrie put on one of his worst performances of the summer when he really couldn’t afford it. It’s also a tough loss in terms of his hopes of reaching the ATP Finals. While he would currently be in the top eight of the ATP race had he received points for his semi-final at Wimbledon, he is instead 11th.
Despite performing well below his lofty standards, a tough day doesn’t dampen the shine around Norrie and the immense progress he has made. It was only his second career Grand Slam fourth round and, despite being 27, he is still inexperienced at the end of the big tournaments. Rublev, who is 24, will now play in his sixth career Grand Slam quarter-final.
This will soon change. Norrie put himself in a position to continue making week two of the majors. Such is his progress, he can still end the week with another new achievement – depending on how Rublev and others below him fare, he could reach a new career ranking of eighth.
Cameron Norrie out of US Open after straight-set loss to Andrey Rublev