Norrie Earns Biggest Title Of His Career At Indian Wells

Cameron Norrie (photo ATP Tour video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 18, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The BNP Paribas Open men’s singles title match was a tale of two first-time ATP Masters 1000 finalists, 26th-ranked Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and No. 36 Nikoloz Basilashvili from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. A fortnight ago, neither was expected to be where they were on championship Sunday in the Southern California palm desert. After all, most pundits were anticipating a title showdown between World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and either World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas or World No. 4 Alexander Zverev.

However, this has been a fortnight about exceeding expectations. After the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the event in 2020 and pushed back this year’s tournament from March to October – and with the absence of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic as well Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and 2019 champion Dominic Thiem – who could have predicted what would unfold?

By the end of the one hour and 49 minute title match on Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, played on a clear, 82-degree fall evening, it was the 21st seed Norrie who raised his arms in celebration. He defeated No. 29 seed Basilashvili, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, to win his second career ATP Tour title and first at the ATP Masters 1000 level. He became the tournament’s first champion ranked outside of the Top 25 since 2010.

“It mens so much to me, my biggest title. I’m so happy. I can’t even describe it right now,” Norrie said afterward in an on-court interview. “It was a strange match today but absolutely massive for me and my team. I can’t really believe it.”

Fans were treated to the second ATP Masters 1000 final of the season where both players were ranked outside the Top 25. It happened at the Miami Open last spring when Hubert Hurkacz beat Jannik Sinner, when both were ranked in the thirties at the time.

While Norrie beat Basilashvili in their only previous meeting, 6-0, 6-3, in the first round at Rotterdam back in March, one match certainly wasn’t enough of a sample size to draw any conclusions from. However, Norrie and Basilashvili didn’t disappoint anyone. They exceeded expectations, even though for a set it looked like the Georgian was going to dominate things against the South African-born Londoner and make a quick night of the title match. However, Norrie had other ideas and wasn’t ready to quit. Instead, he went to work and regained his form, and by the conclusion of the three-set match, it was a well-deserved victory for him.

Norrie, 26, the first British finalist at Indian Wells since Andy Murray in 2009 played like a man on a mission. After starting the year ranked 71st, he’s achieved a career-best 47 tour-level wins in 2021. He was appearing in a tour-tying sixth ATP Tour final of the season and looking to build upon his first ATP Tour title won in Los Cabos. His run to the Indian Wells final lifted him into the Top 20 for the first time and he’s also the new British No. 1 replacing Dan Evans. Both Murray and Evans fell out of contention in earlier rounds of the tournament. All in all, Norrie acquitted himself pretty good for someone whose prior Indian Wells main-draw experiences resulted in a pair of first-round defeats. Now, he’s the first British champion in tournament history.

“I think it’s very special, especially looking at the other names, Greg, Tim and Andy, all British tennis icons and legends,” Norrie said earlier in the week. That would be Greg Rusedski, Tim Henman and Murray – a modern who’s-who of British men’s tennis to the uninitiated.

“To be added to that list is extremely special for me. The last two days have been the biggest matches of my career, so I’m going to go out there and it’s going to be my biggest match of my career again.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to the occasion. Feeling all the nerves and all the pressure, it’s definitely great to experience that.”

Meanwhile, Basilashvili, 29, who never advanced this far in an ATP Master 1000 event, was chasing after his third ATP Tour title of the season to go along with earlier successes at Doha and Munich.

Norrie hit 10 winners that overcame his 25 unforced errors. He converted five of eight break points – including two in the final set – and won when Basilashvili sailed a backhand long on match point. He outpointed Basilashvili 79-67 in becoming the 13th player this year to win multiple ATP Tour crowns.

Now, after stringing together wins against Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, Tommy Paul, Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov and Basilashvili, Norrie will leave Indian Wells at a career-high ranking of No. 16 in the new FedEx ATP Rankings and with a hefty prize-money check worth $1,209,730 plus 1,000 rankings points, which lifts him into 10th place in the FedEx Race to Turin for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals.

“If you’d have told me I’d have won before the tournament started I wouldn’t have believe you, so it’s amazing,” Norrie said.

Not many predicted Norrie would be lifting the Baccarat crystal trophy at the end of the desert fortnight. However, after the way the Briton performed in the final, he handled the occasion like it was meant to be.

By the numbers

• There have been nine left-handed champions in the history of Indian Wells, including Jimmy Connors (1976, 1981, 1984), Roscoe Tanner (1978-79), Marcelo Rios (1998) and Rafael Nadal (2007, 2009, 2013). Cameron Norrie becomes the fifth and also the first Indian Wells titlist from Great Britain.

• Cameron Norrie became the sixth different player to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this season joining Hubert Hurkacz (Miami), Stefanos Tsitsipas (Monte-Carlo), Alexander Zverev (Madrid, Cincinnati), Rafael Nadal (Rome) and Daniil Medvedev (Toronto).

• Cameron Norrie is the first player ranked outside the Top 25 to win the Indian Wells title since then-No. 26 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia – now Roger Federer’s coach – won in 2010.

“Quotable …”

“I’ve been really enjoying my tennis and been enjoying being out on court and competing in the big moments. I’m just really pleased with how I handled the occasion. I think I’m dong a lot better with that this year. I lost a lot of those finals, so it’s nice to get the big one today.”

Cameron Norrie, 26, of Great Britain, after winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title.