Cameron Norrie thinks Andre Agassi has played a significant part in helping him to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
The 22-year-old Briton, whose only other appearance at this level was courtesy of a wild card at Wimbledon last month, is through to the main draw of next week’s US Open after winning three matches in qualifying. He will face Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov in his opening match after successive straight-sets victories in qualifying over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, the American Sekou Bangoura and Japan’s Go Soeda.
Norrie, ranked No 236 in the world, thinks that a tip from one of his coaches, Devin Bowen, has helped him to focus during his matches, especially at a tournament where the off-court noise can be distracting for players.
“I just stare at my strings,” Norrie said. “Devin wanted me to emulate Agassi, the way he was always looking at his strings, and I think that’s helped me a lot. Before I was always looking around, looking at the other courts and losing focus, so I think it’s helped me a lot to not play any loose points. I think it’s helped me the most on my service. I’m not really playing a lot of loose points where I’d get broken easily.”
Norrie is a comparative latecomer to the professional game after spending three years playing college tennis at Texas Christian University. Now he is playing tennis full-time and rapidly making an impression.
“Before I was a little but stressed because I was going to school and playing pro,” he said. “Now it’s nice just to focus all my energy on tennis and not have to worry about the schooling and stuff like that. I’m happy where I’m at, physically and mentally, and I’m enjoying it as well.”
At Wimbledon Norrie was beaten in straight sets by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round, but since then he has done well on the Challenger circuit in the United States. He was world No 275 going into the Challenger at Binghampton in his first tournament after Wimbledon but climbed 76 places in the rankings after beating Australia’s Jordan Thompson, the No 1 seed, in the final. That was enough to earn his place in the qualifying tournament here.
“I’m stoked,” Norrie said after reaching the main draw. “I’ve worked hard. I did a training week at TCU last week and I’ve been working really hard on my routines between points. I feel really focused and I’m playing every point and competing really well, so I’m really happy.”
Asked to compare how he felt having qualified here – through his own efforts – compared with the experience of being handed a Wimbledon wild card, Norrie said: “I feel a lot more comfortable this week than I did going into Wimbledon. It was my first pro grass season ever. I feel a lot better on the hard courts. I’m feeling really confident and in good shape.” He added: “I love the UK and being there. It’s just the weather that gets me down a little bit. I feel really comfortable on the courts here and I love the heat.”