This is truly a unique moment in modern British tennis. Just five weeks on from Emma Raducanu’s history-making US Open triumph, Cameron Norrie’s victory at Indian Wells on Sunday brings a whole new complexion to the men’s game too.
Norrie beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6 6-4 6-1 in Sunday’s final of the Masters tournament to become the new British number one and the 16th-ranked player in the world. Only last week the South Africa-born star admitted his ambition is to topple Novak Djokovic as the globe’s number one, and while to some that may have seemed fanciful, his biggest career achievement to date will enhance his hopes of troubling the very best in the sport.
Just days on from Andy Murray announcing he will make himself unavailable for the Davis Cup group clashes with France and Czech Republic and insisting that Norrie and Dan Evans have earned the right to represent the country more than he has, the 26-year-old underlined the quality in the British men’s game right now beyond the three-time Grand Slam champ.
After an early break in the first, a double fault at 30-40 in the sixth game saw him surrender the advantage and Basilashvili was soon bossing the play with his testing single-handed off-speed forehands. The Georgian wrapped up a 6-3 set having trailed 3-1 at one point.
As Basilashvili continued to deliver some outstanding winners it appeared that a couple of big hits on key points could end the match, but at 5-4 up on serve in the second Norrie began to turn the tide. First he delivered an audacious lob and then followed up with a perfectly-executed volley, next he sent an incredible backhand pass down the line, and by the time his opponent had fired a big forehand just wide of the tramline Norrie had levelled the match on the back of claiming eight successive points.
At 0-1 in the decider, the Georgian showed further signs of struggle in the longer rallies, and Norrie broke once more as Basilashvili sent a backhand wide, and the Brit was would soon break for a 34th time in the tournament at 4-1 when forcing his opponent to volley wide. And he was a Masters champion moments later after Basilashvili went long at 40-15, a look of mild incredulity coming across Norrie’s face as the gravity of his win settled in.
“It means so much to me, my biggest title,” the new champion said afterwards. “I’m so happy I can’t even describe it right now. It was a strange match today but absolutely massive for me and my team. I can’t really believe it.
“If you’d told me I would have won the tournament before it started, I wouldn’t believe you. So, it’s amazing.”
After decades of having nobody to truly herald in the women’s game, Raducanu has given British tennis fans something to cherish. And now on the men’s side there is Norrie showing that we might not have to wait as long as we thought for a successor to Murray on the Grand Slam podium.
Thanks to these new stars and their fantastic feats, it is a lot of fun being a follower of British tennis right now.