It was a match of two halves but, alas, the same end result: Cameron Norrie was dismissed from the French Open in the second round by Lucas Pouille yesterday, 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, completing a match that had started on Wednesday night.
When bad light stopped play the day before, Norrie was feeling wretched with stomach ache and was just clinging on for as long as he could. Somehow he had managed to claim a set to keep the contest alive, but he was two sets to one down and desperate for the umpire to call time on proceedings.
Returning to the Court Philippe Chatrier 16 hours and 35 minutes later to resume hostilities yesterday, he was feeling and playing much better but it was still not enough to get past the world No 16 and France’s best hope. No matter, Norrie fought hard, he was certainly not overawed by the occasion and he knew what he had do better in future.
“It was nice to still be in the match last night and gave myself another chance,” Norrie said, looking on the bright side. “And all credit to him. He played really, really good today. I fought hard and played some of my best tennis today. And I’m just proud of how I fought and how I dealt with everything.”
At the moment, everything is a learning experience for the 22-year-old. In his first year on the tour, he has elbowed his way up the rankings with remarkable speed and should be ranked around the No 77 mark when the new list is published in ten days’ time. With each milestone reached on the rankings ladder, he gets to play against better opponents at bigger venues – and now having made his debut on a grand slam centre court, he knows what it feels like to be standing in the spotlight with no place to hide. That can only be a good thing.
“I think just being able to play against the best guys in the world and just have that exposure,” he said, explaining exactly what he had learned, “and having all the cameras there, and playing on the bigger courts and just playing on clay in general. So I think just those things.
“And then a couple of crucial things in the match, like, he obviously played a little bit more aggressive than me in the bigger moments and that managed to get him through it.
“So I think if I would have played again, I would probably play a little more aggressive in the bigger moments and hit a little more to his backhand. So, yeah, it was all learning.”
Pouille, Norrie’s senior by two years, is now in his seventh year on the circuit and so knows his way around both a grand slam campaign and a show court. That he was a little wiser when it mattered and stronger when he needed was to be expected but he was still impressed with Norrie’s efforts. After all, this was only the 14th clay court match of the Scot’s career and he had come within a whisker of reaching a fifth set – and anything can happen in a decider.
“He’s a great player,” Pouille said, simply. “He won some great victories. He beat John Isner last week, so means he’s about to beat the best players in the world. I’m sure his ranking will be better and better the next coming months, and I’m sure he has a good future.”
Norrie’s immediate future involves a bit of time off and maybe a quick visit to his pals in Croatia. He has played six clay court tournaments in eight weeks and he deserves a couple of days off. But then it will be straight back to London for the start of the grass court season and more of the limelight, more big courts and more big reputations to dent.
“Then all my energy will be back towards tennis after that because it’s going to be hectic over the grass,” he said.