In what were two very different quarter-final matches Cameron Norrie and Grigor Dimitrov emerged victors to face each other for a place in the Masters 1000 finals of the BNP Paribas Open being currently held out in the Californian desert heat at Indian Wells.
Right from the beginning I was timing the ball well. I thought I was in for a long match because the previous times we have played have been so long and so physical. Cameron Norrie
First up on Thursday’s schedule was Norrie, the 21st seed who was expecting a tough and physical match from Diego Schwartzman, the 11th seed from Argentina and favourite to progress from this quarter of the draw.
To the surprise of the limited number of spectators allowed into the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in compliance with the Covid pandemic regulations, Norrie, ranked 26, took out the higher ranked player with ease requiring just 73-minutes to complete a 6-0 6-2 rout of the South American.
“Everything went my way today,” a delighted Norrie said as he improved his record over Schwartzman to three wins from four meetings with his 45th match win on the season.
“Right from the beginning I was timing the ball well. I thought I was in for a long match because the previous times we have played have been so long and so physical.
“I hit a lot of lines in the first set and stayed tough in the second and served well when I needed to. I am so happy to be through, it is such a big win for me.”
The victory will lift Norrie into the top 20 of the world rankings and consequently the Johannesburg born Londoner will supplant Dan Evans as British No.1, the Birmingham player having lost a winning lead in the third round to Schwartzman.
“It was never really a goal of mine, but it’s definitely a great bonus to be British No. 1,” Norrie said. “I want to keep pushing. I’ve got a lot of things to improve on.”
“I have been pretty consistent this year,” Norrie added on reaching his first Masters semi-final in what is currently the best season of his career. “I think I am really doing the fundamentals well on serve and return and playing the big points better.
“I have been a little more aggressive and feel I am learning more as I go along and becoming more experienced.”
Schwartzman earned his only break of the match to draw level at 2-all in the second set as he struggled to hold serve winning just 13 of 27 first serve points and just 3 of 19 on his second and delivering 4 double faults.
In contrast the 26-year-old Brit dominated with his serve, cruising through the opening set in 32-minutes losing just one point on his first serve and winning 72 percent of them. He didn’t hit any aces, nor did he deliver any double faults!
Norrie, appearing in his first Indian Wells quarter-final, next faces the 23rd seed from Bulgaria, Grigor Dimitrov who outlasted eighth seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 3-6 6-4 7-6(2).
And he expects a tough encounter to reach the final, having watched on Wednesday, some of Dimitrov’s win over the top seed Daniil Medvedev and was impressed by the Bulgarian’s staying power.
“The level that Grigor played yesterday. For him to come back from a set and a break down against probably the second-best player in the world, it’s impressive stuff,” Norrie said.
Dimitrov had never played Hurkacz before and stood up well against the aggressive Poles’ game, with Hurkacz, who is vying with Norrie for a place in the ATP Final field in Turin next month, hitting 14 aces in their two-hour and 37-minute marathon.
But while he hit more aces and just one double fault to his opponent’s four, he was broken three times and made crucial errors on crucial points while Dimitrov remained consistent and focused throughout, despite losing the first set.
“I never played Hubert before. He has all the weapons. I stayed in it,” a relieved and tired 30-year-old Dimitrov, who has recently suffered with a dose of Covid and back issues, said in his on-court interview.
“Especially after that first set it was very hard for me to find my range today. I was a little bit tired from yesterday and didn’t feel I really had enough time to rest and push, but I still felt and I knew I had something in me. I knew that I had to step up and be a little bit more aggressive.
“I started reading his serve a little bit more and I had a few more looks. I kept trying and believing and I think that made the difference.
“I stayed in there and dug deep. The last few points was the difference.
“I am so glad I have a day off tomorrow!”
The remaining quarterfinal are scheduled for Friday with the second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas playing Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvi and the third seeded Alexander Zverev taking on American Taylor Fritz.