For a brief second Cameron Norrie stuttered, losing the first three games against Australian wildcard Alex Bolt on Court One, but what followed amounted to nothing short of a procession.
The Briton, who’s still riding a wave of momentum after reaching the final at Queen’s last month, has often flown under the radar, making steady progress in the shadows of Andy Murray and more recently Kyle Edmund.
But the absence of spotlight has, perhaps, been as much a benefit as a slight for the 25-year-old. It’s true that there is not one remarkably distinct strength to his game, but rather a well-rounded arsenal that grinds down opponents through sheer attrition.
Yet, reaching the third round at Wimbledon for the first time in his career, and in such impressive style, should enforce the truth that he is no secondary act.
After falling into an early deficit, Norrie reopened the vein of form that’s carried him to No 34 in the world rankings, winning 11 games in succession, with any flicker of those early doubts firmly extinguished.
Bolt’s low, driven forehand was a firework shot but it exploded far too infrequently and the 28-year-old Australian, competing in the Wimbledon main draw for just the second time in his career, was doused by an excess of unforced errors - 38 in total - that rendered his challenge obsolete in the face of Norrie’s consistency, each rally prolonged until the inevitable mistake arrived.
It is not to say there weren’t fine highlights from Norrie, too, who produced a series of breathtaking backhand passing shots as his opponent attempted to storm the net. But the fact remains that this was a test that he was expected to pass. He did so in a fashion that will only serve to boost confidence.
He will need to draw on every ounce of that in the next round, where a date with Roger Federer now awaits, after the 20-time grand slam champion’s classy and conclusive victory against Richard Gasquet.
Federer showed questionable signs of age and fitness in his first round match against Adrian Mannarino, though, advancing only after the Italian retired due to injury, but the sheer weight of the 39-year-old’s aura alone will make for an imposing examination of Norrie’s resolve. The pair have met just once before, with Federer racing to a straight sets victory in just 57 minutes.
Norrie has made his ascent without an avalanche of pressure or scrutiny, but that is not to underestimate his ability or determination. He will need those qualities and more on what promises to be the grandest stage of his career thus far.
“Both [Federer and Gasquet] are very experienced players and [it is] another opportunity to get out on the court,” he said afterwards. “If there is a time to play Roger, I guess now is the best - but he is still a decent player!”
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