Saturday, October 16, 2021 - Cameron Norrie reacts during play against Grigor Dimitrov in a men's semifinal match at Stadium 1 on day 13 of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, CA. (Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open)
The 26-year-old Briton was tactically clinical against Dimitrov on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in the Palm Desert, taking advantage of the Bulgarian’s fatigue after two consecutive upset wins over Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz in the fourth round and quarterfinals, respectively.
Norrie made his strategy clear right from the offset, peppering the No. 23 seed’s backhand in prolonged rallies and daring him to take greater risks down the line. He was rewarded early for his industrious approach the match, jetting out to an early 4-0 lead, relinquishing one of the breaks but finding a third in the seventh game and closing the first set out to love.
Willed on by a large Bulgarian contingent in the Stadium 1 crowd, Dimitrov would have been hoping to kick off the second set in resurgent fashion – instead he struggled with his energy after his marathon matches earlier in the week and was broken in the opening game of set two.
The former World No. 3 would mount a comeback in the next game with Norrie serving at 40-0 up, evening the score at deuce with a sublime dropshot-and-volley combo, one of a several highlights of the all-courter’s racquet in the second set. However, for every one great point came two lackluster errors, as Norrie found frequent success on the biggest point approaching the Dimitrov backhand and eliciting errors.
The match was closer than the scoreline might suggest – especially in the second set – but it was hard to imagine any other winner but No. 21 seed Norrie given the form with which he dispatched Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals and his overall cool demenor throughout the biggest semifinal of his career.
With all said and done, the Briton’s exceptional performance might appear at first glance betrayed by the stats: He hit just five winners to 13 unforced errors compared to 16 and 16 off the Dimitrov racquet. The secret is in the invisible forced errors stat, as Norrie won the majority of his points using his unconventional left strokes to exploit Dimitrov’s weaknesses.
It doesn’t matter how you win – it’s that you win.
And on Sunday’s final, not only with Norrie be playing for the biggest title of his career, he’ll be playing for tournament history as he looks to become the first-ever British champion in any discipline (men’s or women’s singles, doubles) at the BNP Paribas Open.