Cameron Norrie, Britain’s last man standing, will stun strong favourite Novak Djokovic and reach the Wimbledon final. Who says so? Andy Murray.
Ninth seed Norrie, 26, experiencing the second week of a Slam for the first time, meets the reigning champion in the last-four on Centre Court on Friday.
But Murray is convinced his compatriot, 10-1 against the Serb’s 1-11, will upset the odds.
Murray created history in 2013 when he beat Djokovic to become the first home player to lift the men’s title at The Championships since Fred Perry 77 long years earlier.
The dam had burst and a torrent of endorphins was released and swept over Murray, all those 15,000, including your rcorrespondent, and the millions watching on the box.
It was a monumental achievement and Murray went on, of course, to secure the title a second time. The former British No.1 can also boast other glittering prizes on his CV; lifting the US Open and ATP finals trophies, striking two Olympic gold medals, almost single-handedly helping Britain to lift the Davis Cup and sealing the world No.1 spot as he became rated one of the game’s greats.
And Murray, who made the second round this year after a five-year fight against hip problems, believes bike-riding Norrie can put a spoke in Djokovic’s bid to equal Pete Sampras boosted by fellow Brit Emma Raducanu’s shock US Open triumph last autumn and a “top-class attitude”.
The 35-year-old Scot said: “We’ve seen some stuff in tennis over the last few years that no one expected, like with Emma.
“Novak had a very tough match against Jannik Sinner [in the quarter finals when he had to come back from two sets down.
“He came through it but it was tight and Cam is right up there with guys like Sinner right now in terms of ranking and results. It’s going to be close. It’s an unbelievably difficult obstacle.
“Novak has won here six times, been in the final multiple times, I don’t think he’s lost here since 2017 and he was injured there, as well.
“It is an unbelievably difficult ask but the thing that you can guarantee with Cam is he will give himself the best opportunity to win because he will fight for every single point, he’s going to compete extremely hard, and he doesn’t make it easy for anyone.”
Murray added on his practice partner to Standard Sport: “Every time I’ve been on court with him or around him, he’s had a top-class attitude. He gets the most out of every practice session, works extremely hard and he’s making the most of his talent and ability.
“He’s one of the best players in the world and he’s been doing it consistently for the last seven or eight months.
“I don’t believe that you get into the top positions in the world without working extremely hard. You would hope every player would be like that and try to get the most out of themselves like Cam, but that isn’t the case with everybody.”
Norrie revealed he would go to the near-perfect source of Murray for advice on how to beat Djokovic after defeating Belgian’s David Goffin, a rival to the left-hander’s mentor in the 2015 Davis Cup final.
The British No.1 believes words of wisdom from Murray would boost his chances as he “takes it” to the multi Slam champion on the rectangular lawn of one of sport’s most iconic venues.
And it is known Murray always makes himself available to Brits if they want tips.
Norrie said: “Andy has been super supportive to me and my team. You know, I’m always practicing with him and always reaching out to him for ideas. He’s super supportive with us. Even before the match today, he came over and he was in the gym and came and said, “Good luck”.
“So, he’s always — obviously he loves tennis so he’s following everything and all the results. I think it’s pretty cool. Yeah, I think not a bad guy to ask about some tactics. I’m going to maybe reach out to him and see what he’s got.”
He said: “I think it’s obviously one of the toughest tasks in tennis (to play Djokovic). I’d say grass is his favourite surface and his record is unbelievable here at Wimbledon.
“It’s going to be tough. I’m going to have to improve a lot of things from today. I don’t think I’m going to have the chance to lose focus like I did today. I think I was a little bit fortunate. I, a couple of times, lost a little bit of focus and managed to get it back. I think with him, there is no room for that.”
The reserved Norrie, who has quietly biked his way to and from his Putney home to SW19 during The Championships, also has a sense of history.
He is only the fourth player, behind Murray, Tim Henman and Roger Taylor to take part in the last four of the men’s singles tournament.
Norrie, who has leapt up the world rankings to 12 in the last year or so, said: “To just be a semi-finalist of a slam, especially this one, living just around the corner. Yeah, it’s just all pretty crazy and all happened pretty quickly. Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be amongst those names.”
Djokovic’s ex-coach Todd Martin pinpointed a weakness in his former employer’s game. American Martin said to Sportklub: “I thought Novak was going to win the Calendar Slam last year in New York. Generally, it seems to me he doesn’t enjoy the pressure, but he can fight against it very well. I had a feeling that the pressure was going to bring out that. “There is absolutely no way I’m losing this” mentality from him, but it didn’t happen, and Medvedev played great as well.”
Norrie and Djokovic have met just once, in the ATP finals in Italy last year, with the Serb coming out on top.
But Djokovic believes that result is irrelevant.
He said: “Different tournament, different conditions. This is a semi-final of a Grand Slam. Showtime is over. I know what to expect with the crowd support. He’s not much to lose. Every victory is a big deal for him. I’ll do my homework and get ready.”
* Mike Donovan has written the book The Jimmy Greaves We Knew: The Authorised Celebration of a National Treasure which is out on Pitch Publishing on 19 September, 2022, the first anniversary of Greaves’ passing. Donovan has also written a Tennis Threads special edition on Andy Murray called Murray: Magnificent, Momentous and Memorable Achievements.