Cameron Norrie saves the blushes of British tennis and cruises through to the second round of the French Open with straight-sets win over American Bjorn Fratangelo
- Cameron Norrie took a 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 victory over American Bjorn Fratangelo
- He will face the winner of South Africa’s Lloyd Harris and Italian Lorenzo Sonego
- The 25-year-old could face French Open great Rafael Nadal in the third round
It is looking increasingly fortuitous for British tennis that Cam Norrie has always had a UK passport through his parentage.
For the third Grand Slam out of four he is the last player to keep the flag flying in the singles, and at the French Open on Monday he saved the Lawn Tennis Association from more embarrassment.
Were it not for Norrie, largely raised in New Zealand but now resident in Putney, this would have been the second successive edition of Roland Garros without a Brit in the second round.
Cameron Norrie is enjoying his best season to date and advances to the second round
Luckily, amid defeats for Jo Konta and Heather Watson, he was good enough to see off American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5 7-6 6-2 in two and a half hours. He now faces South African Lloyd Harris, and if he can get through that will be playing with house money against Rafael Nadal in the last 32.
So it was not quite as bad as October, when all six Brits lost. It is true that European clay is not most GB’s preferred environment, but as Norrie pointed out afterwards, he never set on foot on what is the sport’s best learning surface until he was sixteen years old.
Last week the LTA’s annual report revealed that it had taken £1.2 million in government furlough money during the pandemic to help finance some of its 328 staff during the pandemic.
The left-hander has cemented himself as Britain’s most consistent Grand Slam performer
That sum alone will be bigger than the annual budget of some national tennis federations who match or exceed GB in the production of elite players. Thanks to Wimbledon’s insurance, there was not even much of a dent in Wimbledon’s usual handout to the governing body over the past year.
Given the lack of tennis expertise on the LTA’s main board, the awkward realities will be highlighted only by the beastly media, rather than those running the show.
In the long-term absence of Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund – the latter hopes to return at the back end of this summer, the former is on track to come back next week – Norrie and Dan Evans have done unexpectedly well on the clay.
This was Norrie’s 24th victory on tour of the season, and Fratangelo never looked like having enough to breach his formidable defences or get close to running his legs off.
The 25 year-old lefthander did not even feel he had put his best game out on the court on another glorious day in the French capital.
‘On average I don’t think I played well at all, said Norrie. ‘Especially on my serve and my forehand, I was a little bit tentative at times and I didn’t play at the level that I had in Lyon last week.
‘I would like the others to come through but I guess I’m going to have to lead the nation’s flag and just go out and play my tennis. I’m not really worrying about how the others are doing too much.’
British number one Dan Evans suffered a shock first round defeat on Sunday afternoon
There was a distinct late career look to Konta and Watson, 30 and 29 respectively, and still the country’s two highest ranked players by far. They have won five matches between them on tour this season while Katie Boulter, on the long road back from injury, has won three and will feature at Nottingham next week.
Konta, who has burgeoning outside interests, will unlikely hit the heights again of 2019 when she made the semis and two quarter finals at the Grand Slam events.
Like Watson she led in the first set before losing 7-6 6-2 to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. A netted forehand at 3-3 in the tiebreak with the court wide open sealed her fate.
Konta has inarguably maximised her ability over the years, through a laser like professionalism. She admitted her perspectives have changed with getting older.
‘Definitely when I was younger, it was a lot more difficult to handle the losses than it is now,’ she said. ‘I think I just handled them in a different way. I’ve tried to absorb them in more of a constructive way, that’s probably the biggest thing that changes.’
Watson, who has been struggling to shake of some persistent minor injuries, fell 7-5 6-4 to the very beatable Zarina Diyas. Like most of the Brits she was left looking forward to the greener grass of home.