Cameron Norrie’s reign as champion of Lyon came to an abrupt end as Francisco Cerundolo brushed him aside to reach the final of the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon on the eve of the French Open which starts on Sunday.
I've been beating many good players this past year. It's super important because it shows you can play against anyone Francisco Cerundolo
The top seeded Norrie, world-ranked 14, succumbed to the fourth-seeded Cerundolo, ranked 14 places below him, as he crumbled to a 6-3 6-0 defeat after just 72-minutes.
It was a comprehensive victory by the Argentine over the Brit who has an excellent record in Lyon where he has won prior to Saturday’s loss,13 times in 14 matches.
On this occasion he was outplayed by Cerundolo managing to raise only one break point in the entire match while his opponents serve dominated the occasion, especially in the second set.
On Saturday the Buenos Aires player will be playing his first final of the season in what will be the third final of his career. It is also the first time any player from Argentina has reached the title round.
“Today I played by far my best tennis of the week,” Cerundolo said in his on-court interview afterwards.
“Cameron is a really tough player. He won here last year. He’s top 15. He was top 10. I played amazing and I’m super happy to be in the finals.
“I’ve been beating many good players this past year. It’s super important because it shows you can play against anyone.
“I’m really confident with my tennis and hopefully I can – with more matches like this – go higher in the rankings and win more tournaments.”
For the Argentine it was his second consecutive win over a Brit having recovered to beat Jack Draper in the quarter finals and he set down his marker immediately against Norrie by breaking the Brit in the very first game of the match.
Norrie then failed to get back into the set when he had a chance at 4-3, but Cerundolo held firm before breaking his opponent’s serve again on set point.
By now the usually indefatigable Norrie seemed to be struggling physically as his error count mounted allowing his challenger a clear run to the finish line which he crossed by inflicting a bagel on his opponent to secure an emphatic victory.
Cerundolo has only won one title in his career so far and his best showing at a grand slam was at the Australian Open this year where he reached the third round.
He is now favourite to succeed Norrie as champion as he will be facing Arthur Fils in the final, a French wild card entry ranked 112, but he could be surprised by the 18-year-old who has benefitted from a disqualification and a walk-over to reach the title match.
The teenager has won only two matches this week beating a qualifier from China Zhishen Zhang 6-3 6-2 in the opening round and then fought his way past the world No.46 Brandon Nakashima over nearly three hours to beat the eighth seed from America 7-4 4-6 7-6(5).
With the crowd supporting their own, it could well prove an exciting contest as the last time a Frenchman appeared in the final was Benoit Paire when he won in 2019 following Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga’s footsteps, winner of the inaugural event two years earlier with Gilles Simon making the final in the intervening year.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, the second seeded Taylor Fritz of the States was knocked out by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov despite taking the first set in their Geneva Open semi-final.
Dimitrov, seeded four, came back from 6-3 down to battle past him and after two-hours and 52-minutes, claim a satisfying 7-5 7-6(2) victory.
The Bulgarian will face Nicolas Jarry of Chile who pulled off an equally impressive win by taking out Alexander Zverev, the third seed from Germany, 7-6(3) 6-3 in 106-minutes.