Cam Norrie tries not to think about it, but he’s set to join a company selected to claim half a century of ATP Tour victories this year.
Since 2000, Tim Henman and Andy Murray have been the only British players of both sexes to reach the benchmark, and Norrie is in sight on 41. He will come close if he can beat American Tennys Sandgren tonight in the second round of the Open BNP Paribas in the California Desert.
Perhaps it was Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray who drew the most attention – both were to play overnight – but it was the 26-year-old southpaw who offered the most weekly consistency throughout 2021. .
World No.26 Cam Norrie shortlisted for Most Improved ATP Player of the Year award
Twelve months ago, Norrie seemed an unlikely candidate to qualify for the year-end final at eight, moved to Turin in November, but he is in 14th place with Rafael Nadal’s injury, which means that at least the first nine will qualify.
It is a more accurate reflection of Norrie’s position than an official ranking of 26, which is deceptively depressed because, according to a complex Covid formula, the points have still been counted for over a year.
This is his 22nd tournament of a season that has seen him confined, without complaint, in a bubble most of the time. Despite that, he’s in full steam for the rest of 2021.
“It’s a little frustrating not to be sitting a little higher with the way the standings are and the way the points have been calculated,” he admits. “I haven’t thought about the number of matches at all, you want to keep going and keep pushing hard.”
The global game is currently in a state of flux and renewal. The UK scene is also changing rapidly, with the surprising emergence of Raducanu and the long-term struggles of Murray and Jo Konta.
The latter is planning to retire with a lingering knee injury that is undermining her motivation, and her career best mark of 46 wins in the 2016 season now appears to be overhauled by Norrie.
Previously seen as a strong but unspectacular member of the Top 100, with a cleverly redirected backhand as a unique feature, the Putney-based southpaw is keen to capitalize on the current upheavals.
He’s not lacking in ambition and has more in mind than overtaking Dan Evans to become Raducanu’s male counterpart.
“Being number one in Britain is not the goal. I’m more focused on being world number one, ”he says. ‘This is my dream. Of course, I would love to play a final at Wimbledon, but I just want to get that number one spot. I believe I can do it, there are areas of my game that I would like to improve.
The 26-year-old is in contention to advance to the end-of-year ATP finals in Turin
Sounds like a long time, although official recognition for his accomplishments comes next month when he is on the shortlist for the award for Most Improved ATP Player of the Year.
Making the San Diego Open championship game last week was his latest milestone. It was his fifth final of the year on the ATP Tour, whose highest profile was at Queen’s.
He did so without making any drastic changes to his game, despite being one of the naturally longest-lasting athletes on the circuit, with a penchant for long-distance running.
After that, he plans to play a full part of European indoor events in the race for a place in Turin. After that, the season finally ends with the Davis Cup Finals week, starting in Innsbruck and leading to Madrid.
He is expected to emulate Tim Henman and Andy Murray by scoring 50 ATP Tour victories in one year
In theory, he should be part of a formidable British squad, given the doubles prowess available to captain Leon Smith.
One potential problem is that the early Christmas departure for Australia for a quarantine period means there will be little precious time for a break. There was a hint of equivocation when asked if he would make himself available for the tag team event.
“If I’m selected I can’t wait to do it, it’s obviously tricky with the dates and everything, but I can’t wait to play that,” he said.
Raducanu was scheduled to face Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Friday night, while Murray was scheduled to face Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Emma Raducanu set to return to the field after her US Open triumph in Indian Wells
Whatever the outcome of the premiere, she will continue her plans to recruit a new coach in the long term, with a short list of targets under consideration which includes Argentinian Carlos Rodriguez, Swede Tomas Hogstedt and Dutchman Sven. Groeneveld, both of whom have extensive experience touring women.
Towards the end of the season, there is usually a big change among the female coaches.
Rodrigues was a mentor to Justine Henin. His great Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, now 38, continued his return to Indian Wells but suffered a 6-1 206 6-2 loss to Katerina Siniakova.