Cameron Norrie has established himself as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. This is not surprising considering a doctor once asked him if he was a deep-sea diver due to the size of his lungs.
Even with that in mind, some of the stories about the Briton’s fitness and competitive spirit are jaw-dropping.
Devin Bowen, the assistant coach at Texas Christian University, where Norrie played college tennis, recalls a practice block they did in Fort Worth two years ago. After six days of training, Norrie would have the day off to recover and prepare for harder work.
“On his day off he loves to run. He likes to run long distances as a hobby. There was a 10K in town and he just went and he didn’t text, he did it. just done. [The point was] you rest and then we start the week,” recalled Bowen, who was largely responsible for Norrie’s field training at TCU and always helps out when Norrie is in town. “He ran the 10k and won it. It was like, ‘Yeah, it’s good that you did that, but the point of today was to rest your body and we’re going to do it again.’
“Once he got in there, I know he was thinking, ‘I’m just going to get in there, I know I can do this. And then he went in there and said, “I’m going to win this thing,” and he won it. So he won the Fort Worth 10k, and it was just a day off. This kind of gives you an idea of the type of animal you are dealing with.
After Norrie beat Denmark’s #NextGenATP Holger Rune on Saturday in the third round of the US Open, a reporter asked the southpaw if he would ever consider running a marathon.
“I might like after tennis. I like running, but I haven’t been able to do that much,” Norrie said. “I feel like when I’m resting, I gotta chill and relax rather than I think maybe three years ago my team was like, ‘Okay, rest up,’ and then I’ll go for a little run the next day.
“I feel like now I’ve been a bit better with it and haven’t really been out and about running too much. I can rest and maybe do something different, try to play golf or do something like that instead of going out and running.
It’s not just about running for Norrie, who periodically returns to Texas with his trainer and former college teammate, Facundo Lugones, for a practice block. According to Bowen, Norrie’s fitness still shows.
“With him and his physical trainers, we will challenge in my swimming pool… with how many lengths we can swim underwater. It’s pretty carried away,” Bowen said. “Things like this happen all the time. We were doing it last summer when we were [swimming] like 10 laps underwater while holding your breath and then the next one was breaking the record.
“He doesn’t like losing to those. He doesn’t like to lose anything.
It also goes beyond physical fitness demonstrations. Outside of competition, Norrie is one of the more laid-back players on the tour. But when he attended TCU, Norrie would even bring it to his teammates during practice.
“If you look at the time he was in college, he didn’t drop a lot of sets in practice, which was unusual. He just didn’t like [losing]recalls Bowen. “There were times when he was [crushing] someone and you kind of think, ‘Cameron we have to play tomorrow and [crushing] this guy right now is probably not going to help the team. But he would like that. He kinda has a little mean side to him [when it comes to competing].”
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This competitive spirit has helped Norrie achieve career No. 9 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. It’s been a quick rise for a man who was world number 29 at last year’s US Open, in which he lost in the first round. He won his first ATP Masters 1000 title last October in Indian Wells and entered the Nitto ATP Finals as a substitute. Two months ago he fought for his first major semi-final at Wimbledon.
Norrie’s physical condition has always been there and his game has caught up. From being able to play more aggressively with his forehand to being more comfortable getting to the net and finishing points there, Norrie has become a threat on all courts and surfaces.
“His natural tendency was to ball and run. It got him a lot of wins when he was in college and he was young. He had to evolve and be more aggressive to beat some of those top players and he did a good job of doing that. It’s not easy,” Bowen said. “It’s a challenge to force yourself to do something that doesn’t come naturally. He has become much more aggressive over time.
Norrie will try to use this to his advantage as he chases the draw at Flushing Meadows. The competitive Briton will look to continue his rise in round four against ninth seed Andrey Rublev.
“I was happier with my performance,” Norrie said of his third-round win over Rune. “I still have a lot of things I would like to improve, and I have tomorrow to do that.”