Brit Norrie ready for the ultimate test against Nadal in Paris

‘I know what I’m in for’: British No 2 Cameron Norrie ready for the ultimate test by taking on 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal in Paris

  • Norrie takes on Nadal in the third round at the French Open on Saturday
  • The Brit pushed his opponent hard at the same stage of the Australian Open
  • The 25-year-old’s challenge has lasted longer than that from the host nation
  • Watch the French Open live on Eurosport and Eurosport app

Cam Norrie gets the chance to scale his personal Everest on Saturday when he faces Rafael Nadal in the third round of the French Open.

Given that nobody has dominated a single event like the 13-times champion, defeating Nadal in Paris can reasonably be described as among the most Herculean tasks in any sport.

At least Norrie leaves base camp without any burden of expectation, despite being the last Brit standing in the singles.

Cameron Norrie takes on Rafael Nadal in the third round at the French Open on Saturday

We probably should not have expected much more, but all things are relative. Incredibly, Norrie making the last 32 means that the challenge from across the Channel has lasted longer than that from the host nation.

French tennis was in shock on Friday, as for the first time in 40 years nobody from one of the sport’s traditional powerhouse nations made the third round of a Grand Slam — last occurring at Wimbledon in 1981.

With a plethora of domestic wildcards handed out, even more than at SW19 later this month, 28 French players were in the men’s and women’s draws. When Nadal completed his ritual demolition of Richard Gasquet late on Thursday night, all had gone.

‘Out of breath at Roland Garros,’ as it was described in the post-mortem by L’Equipe, sports bible in a country where tennis enjoys a more revered standing than it does in the UK.

Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday on Thursday in style with victory over Richard Gasquet

Huge resources but little to show for it, a familiar situation for anyone who follows British tennis. Or as the saying goes: ‘You can make money out of tennis players, but you can’t make tennis players out of money.’

Norrie has turned himself into a proper player after a wandering journey that has taken him from New Zealand to London, with several years at university in Texas along the way.

With few players making headway until their early 20s, a scholarship to an American college is an increasingly popular route into the professional ranks.

Few have trod the path as successfully as the 25-year-old lefthander, but it will take a seismic upset for a French Open Brexit not to have been completed by Saturday evening.

The defending champion is ready for a tough battle after two meetings already this year

One victory Norrie has already claimed is simply gaining Nadal’s respect — the Spaniard noted his opponent’s collection of 25 wins on the ATP Tour this season.

‘He’s a great player. He’s winning plenty of matches this year,’ said Nadal. ‘Every week he’s making good results, winning against very good players. I know it is going to be a tough one. 

‘I need to be ready to play my best. I know he has a style of game that is not easy to play against.’

By now, Nadal and the rest of the locker room know what to be wary of when playing Norrie. One thing is his cleverly directed, flat backhand while another is his stamina, honed by his fondness for long-distance running.

The two southpaws have met twice this year and while Norrie is yet to win a set, he pushed his opponent hard when they played at the same stage of the Australian Open in February.

‘When I was hitting my backhand hard across to his backhand, pinning him in that corner and then drilling him into the forehand, I think I did that well at times,’ said the British No 2. ‘I know what I’m in for.’

Probably another learning experience, and one that will set him up well for the grass season.

That begins with the qualifying event at the Nottingham Open. Norrie has yet to play on home soil this year and has barely had the chance to get back to his flat in Putney. As the French players have shown, performing in your own country is not always the advantage it might seem.

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