Ruusuvuori Wins Battle Of Big Moments Over Norrie At Eastbourne

Emil Ruusuvuori (photo: Kate Green/Getty Images for LTA)

EASTBOURNE/WASHINGTON, June 25, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

It’s always tough to play against a British player at home. Yet, Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori has always been up to the challenge. In six career matches, he’s never lost to a British player in Great Britain.

On another glorious summer day at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne, where temperatures reached 26 degrees (Celsius) along the southeast coast of England, the 25-year-old from Helsinki defeated No. 44 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, 7-6 (9), 6-3, in an hour and 35 minutes on Centre Court Tuesday afternoon.

The win over Norrie improved Ruusuvuori’s  win-loss record on tour this season to 13-10 – and he’s now 6-0 against Britons in Great Britain. Meanwhile, it was the second straight first-round exit for the 28-year-old Norrie after losing to Milos Raonic of Canada at Queen’s Club a week ago.

“It can’t get any better than this,” Ruusuvuori said of his experience playing on the sun-soaked Centre Court at Eastbourne. “It’s not typical English weather that I’m used to. It’s blue sky, sunshine and a Centre Court with a lot of people.”

In a match of big moments, including a 20-point first-set tie-break that featured a combined five set points between the two competitors, Ruusuvuori beat Norrie for the second time in three career meetings – and first in three years – by outpointing the British No. 2 player 74-66. He didn’t panic when the pressure was upon him.

Instead, Ruusuvuori hit 17 winners, made just 10 unforced errors, and saved all seven break points he faced from the former World No. 8, whose ranking has plummeted in recent months due to illness and injury. It was Ruusuvuori’s first tour-level grass-court win of the season and it snapped a five-match grass-court losing streak (including matches on the ATP Challenger Tour). He’s 10-3 against British players at all levels.

“Cam is one of the toughest players out there,” Ruusuvuori said during his on-court interview of the two-time Eastbourne quarterfinalist (2018, 2022). “Playing a Brit on the Centre Court, I just tried to enjoy it. I played a very good level today in the tough moments. It was very good.”

As Ruusuvuori continues to build his confidence in anticipation of next week’s Wimbledon Championships, in the second round he will face 104th-ranked qualifier Shang Juncheng of China, who upset No. 7 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina on Monday. As for Norrie (14-13), it’s back to the drawing board in order to try to find his game and regain his confidence. Time is of an essence.

Lucky loser Hussey is a big winner in Eastbourne

British lucky loser Giles Hussey gave an inspired performance, which earned him a standing ovation from the home crowd that filled intimate Court 1 after he defeated World No 32 and sixth seed Mariano Navone of Argentina, 6-4, 6-2, in 63 minutes.

It was a magical and dreamy moment for the 359th-ranked native of Swindon, who garnered his first victory on the ATP Tour, after taking his place as a lucky loser in the draw at the last moment. He replaced Kei Nishikori of Japan, who withdrew from the tournament due to an ankle injury.

The 27-year-old left-hander Hussey played stunning and ruthless tennis and took advantage of his opportunities. He hit 16 winners, made only six unforced errors, converted four of six break points and outpointed Navone 56-33.

“I’m shaking,” Hussey said in his on-court interview, describing the feeling of winning his first tour-level match in front of a mostly British audience. “I don’t know if you can tell but my whole body is shaking. I just came out here wanting to enjoy it.

“As you guys probably know,  I got in as a lucky loser.”

Over the weekend, Hussey beat 98th-ranked Frenchman Arthur Cazaux, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 before losing to No. 104 Shang Juncheng of China, 7-5, 7-6 (5). Then, he waited and waited — and hoped for his chance. It finally came.

I sat  for 45 minutes before the match and didn’t know if I was going to play today,” Hussey explained. “I did everything right with my coach. We prepared as if I was going to play a match, I would be ready.

“Once I found out I was going to get in, we just said ‘come out and enjoy it.’ And I did.”

Next, Hussey will face No. 49 Flavio Cobolli of Italy, who defeated No. 68 Arthur Rinderknech of France, 6-4, 7-5, in one hour and 21 minutes on Court 2. Cobolli struck 23 winners and outpointed his opponent 64-56 to advance to the second round.

Around Devonshire Park

No. 57 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 568th-ranked British lucky loser Henry Searle, a former Wimbledon boys’ junior champion, who was making his ATP Tour main-draw debut.

The 18-year-old Searle, who replaced No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain in the main draw, proved no match for Sonego despite breaking the Italian’s serve in the opening game. During their 67-minute Centre Court tussle, Sonego won 83 percent of his first-serve points, hit 22 winners and converted four of seven break points. He outpointed Searle 60-34. Next, Sonego will play 94th-ranked Australian qualifier Max Purcell.

• No. 74 Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 342nd-ranked qualifier James McCabe of Australia in one hour and 40 minutes in their first meeting. Seyboth Wild, who outpointed his opponent 72-67, will take on World No. 14 and top seed Taylor Fritz in the second round.

• Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka defeated 146th-ranked British wild card Liam Broady, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes to advance to the second round against No. 46 Marcos Giron of the United States The 102nd-ranked Nishioka withstood 33 winners from Broady, who was returning from injury, converted four of 14 break points and outpointed his fellow lefty 82-66. He is yet to drop a set through two qualifying wins and his main-draw victory over Broady.

• No. 53 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia upset No. 33 Zhang Zhizhen of China in an hour and 25 minutes behind 25 winners – including nine aces – and saved all four break points he faced. Kecmanovic, who improved to 2-0 lifetime against the Chinese No. 1, outpointed Zhang 76-62. Next, he will play World No. 18 and fourth seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina.

• No. 1 doubles seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain retired from their match at 2-all in the second set against unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland and Max Purcell of Australia. Ram and Salisbury won the opening set 7-6 (3).

Tuesday’s Eastbourne results

Wednesday’s Eastbourne results

By the numbers

Before losing to Emil Ruusuvuori on Tuesday, Cameron Norrie was 12-2 versus opponents ranked outside Top 50 on tour-level grass since start of 2019 season.

“Quotable …”

“I love all grass. Good grass, bad grass, any grass is good grass to be honest.”

Max Purcell of Australia, a 2021 Eastbourne semifinalist, during his on-court interview following his 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 first-round victory over Laslo Djere of Serbia on Monday.