Cameron Norrie shows new edge with victory despite boos from French Open

By Simon Briggs in Paris

The drama continues to follow Cameron Norrie, the seemingly mild-mannered British number 1, who was persistently booed when Lucas Pouille’s French fairy tale ended.

While Norrie’s 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory was straightforward in the end, she had to deal with a hostile crowd on Suzanne Lenglen Court, especially after a contested call for a double rebound.

The incident came midway through the third set, when Pouille tickled over the net and Norrie ran forward to retrieve it.

Although Norrie launched a well-placed lob, Pouille paused for a moment before turning around. She was waiting for a “not up” call from referee Eva Asderaki. Neither player knew it at the time, but television replays left little doubt that the ball had touched the ground twice.

“I was pretty sure it was,” Pouille said later, before asking that the footage be consulted in such situations. “Today we have so many options to check if he rebounded twice or not. It’s easy with video. You show it on the screen and you see it right away.”

The incident clearly irritated the crowd and also seemed to disrupt Pouille’s concentration. He couldn’t recover Norrie’s fake lob, and the emotional hangover lingered for a couple of games, as he won just one of the next 10 points.

“When it happened, I didn’t [know if it had bounced twice]”Norrie told reporters later. “I saw the ball in the air, it was spinning backwards. I was like, ‘Maybe there’s a chance I’ll get it. So I just watched it now, and it looks like it bounced twice.

“But yeah, for me there was a bit of doubt there. I think it’s up to the ref to decide that, and he was right in front of her. The other day I had one against me [when Norrie was docked a point for grunting during his first-round win over Benoit Paire], and then it looks like he had one for me today. It’s a little disappointing how it goes like this, but it is what it is. I just keep playing.”

Norrie agreed with Paire that some form of tennis var would be useful (in fact, the men’s tour has already tested such a system at its season-ending NextGen event), but didn’t seem overly concerned about the release of auditory bricks. to him by the French fans.

While Pouille was busy criticizing Asderaki, Norrie simply lowered his head and returned to the baseline. Here was more evidence of the toughness that has led him to his current position of No.13 in the world. He broke serve at the next point.

With the “hurdle” call on Monday for his prolonged grunt and his recent disagreement with Novak Djokovic in Rome, Norrie feels like he’s changed his personality of late. After cruising through most of his career with hardly a word, he’s suddenly become a walking rampage.

At least he’s less likely to get booed during Friday’s third-round matchup. After facing successive Frenchmen in the pressure cooker atmosphere of Court Suzanne Lenglen, one of the best tennis courts in the world, he now faces the elegant Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

Getting back to Pouille, he has become something of a folk hero here after his stint through the rankings, as well as his achievement of being the lowest ranked man (ranked 675th) to win a main draw match at Roland. Garros in a decade. .

That statistic is misleading, however. Pouille broke into the world’s top 10 in 2018, before a serious elbow injury sent him spiraling into depression and alcoholism. He is only now emerging from a few dark years.

Understandably, Pouille seemed to be feeling the aftermath of an emotional week. There were brief moments when she found the inspiration of yesteryear. He delivered some spectacular winners to break Norrie midway through the second set, and then again late in the third. But he couldn’t maintain that level for more than a few games at a time.

Norrie, by contrast, was twice the player we saw during his erratic first-round encounter with Paire. He took control early on, seizing the first five games with no response and blocking any attempt by fans to get under his skin.

He is a difficult opponent in these conditions. With his very high left-handed forehand, Norrie can approximate some of the same patterns Rafael Nadal used to win 14 titles at Roland Garros. Much like a cut-price Nadal, he loves to pin his opponents into their own backhand corner with high-rebound groundstrokes and dive bombing.

This will be his main tactic against Musetti, the 17th seed, whose elegant heads-up passed the test when he beat Norrie in Barcelona six weeks ago. Still, Norrie seemed optimistic about his chances of making it to the second week here for the first time. “I think I have a pretty decent game to play it.”