Cameron Norrie capped a breakout year by becoming the first Briton to win tennis’ “fifth-major” with victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Sunday.
Norrie, 26, stormed back from a set down to take the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 49 minutes to secure his second career title in his finest year on the circuit.
Victory in the California desert is guaranteed to lift Norrie into the world's top 20 and cement his place as Britain’s new No 1.
He was the first British player to reach the final at one of the ATP’s nine elite Masters 1000 events since Andy Murray triumphed in Paris in 2016.
“It means so much to me, my biggest title. I’m so happy, I can’t even describe it right now. It’s absolutely massive for me and my team. I can’t really believe it,” he said in his on-court interview.
It was his second title of the year after also triumphing on the hardcourts at Los Cabos, Mexico, in July. Indian Wells was Norrie's sixth final of 2021 – a feat matched only by world No 1 Novak Djokovic.
The Briton reached four other finals on three different surfaces – on the hardcourts of San Diego, the grass of Queen’s, and on clay in Lyon and Estoril.
“I’ve been really enjoying my tennis and really been enjoying being out on court and competing in the big moments,” he said.
“I’m just really pleased with how I handled the occasion, and I think I’m doing that a lot better this year. I know I lost in a lot of finals so it’s nice to get the big one today.”
Norrie led 3-1 early on against Basilashvili but later began to struggle in the face of the Georgian’s powerful play.
Basilashvili broke back to draw level at 3-3, and after holding serve broke again for a 5-3 lead before holding serve to love for the set.
The 29-year-old looked in command after sealing an early break in the second set then while serving for a 3-1 lead was broken back by Norrie on a second break point.
As both men dug in, games went to serve from there until Norrie suddenly went up a gear in games nine and 10, holding serve to love then breaking Basilashvili to love to level the match by taking the last eight points of the set.
Norrie took the momentum into the final set, serving his first ace of the match to comfortably hold serve in the first game, then breaking Basilashvili to 30 as more errors crept into his tiring opponent’s game.
Serving to go 3-0 up, Norrie slipped up with his second double fault of the match to go down 0-30 then faced three break-back points at 0-40, but doggedly fought back to deuce through three long rallies, before holding serve after Basilashvili twice hit long.
Basilashvili appeared to be tiring, having to dig deep to hold serve from deuce for 3-1, before Norrie held to 30 on yet another long backhand from the Georgian for 4-1. That became 5-1 when Basilashvili put a forehand horribly wide to be broken to 15, before Norrie held to 15 for the match.
“I was a little bit uncomfortable [early],” Norrie said. “It was quite windy. For a stage he went through and hit so many winners. It was tough for me to get some confidence. The rallies were really short and he was just blasting winners.
“But when I made a couple of big shots in the 5-4 game in the second set it gave me a lot of confidence, and I was able to find my feet again, start moving again, and make the rallies physical like I’ve been doing all tournament and it worked in my favour.”