Cameron Norrie appears to be finding his clay feet just at the right time. Brits usually seem to struggle on the red dirt, certainly on the main tour.
Andy Murray took until 2015 to win a clay title on the main tour. The former World #1 claimed two titles that year–Munich and the Madrid Masters. The Brit’s best placing at Roland Garros was the final in 2016, where Murray was defeated by Novak Djokovic. Previously, the Brit managed semifinal placings at the event.
The last British male to win the French Open was Fred Perry back in 1935. British women have been more successful at Roland Garros, with the last British woman to win being Sue Barker in 1976. Clay courts have been a bit of a nemesis for British players.
Dan Evans best record on clay so far was 2013, when he was eight wins and two losses. Evans has struggled a bit this year and is more even with a six wins and five losses. Evans has to date not progressed from the first round in Paris and will be hoping to better that this year.
Kyle Edmund has fared better at the French, reaching third round twice–2017 and 2018. All other appearances by the Brit at Roland Garros have been a second round spot. Edmund has made the quarter-final in Madrid in 2018, but lost in the first round the following year.
James Ward has only once made the main draw in Paris and that was in 2014. Unfortunately, the Brit lost in the first round. However, one of Ward’s biggest victories came on the clay. Petco Park California, Davis Cup first round 2014. The Brit won an epic match over American Sam Querrey that went to five sets. Ward repeated the feat the following year, in Glasgow on indoor hard against John Isner. The Brit lost the first two sets, but came back to win a tough rubber–it gave Britain the lead in the tie and of course they went on to win the event that year.
Cameron Norrie on clay
Norrie has had a blistering start to the 2021 clay court. In Barcelona the Brit made the quarterfinal before encountering the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, where Norrie lost in straight sets. Following on in Estoril, Norrie made the final where he lost to Albert Ramos Viñolas in a very tight match.
The Brit followed this up with a second-round showing at the Italian Open in Rome. Norrie was against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina but lost in straight sets. The Brit then moved to Lyon, to start the preparations for the French Open, by entering the 250 event. At the point of writing, Norrie has made the final. The Brit defeated the top seed Dominic Thiem in straight sets, and eighth seed Karen Khachanov also in straight sets. In the latter match, the Brit only dropped two games. Norrie will face the second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Cameron Norrie is finding his clay feet just at the right time for the French Open. Of course, it will depend on the draw, if this is kind to him, Norrie could be one to watch and make progress through to the second week of the event. Which, for Brits will be a big achievement.
Main Photo from Getty.