Norrie Effectively Getting Job Done At Battle Of The Brits

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Cameron Norrie doesn’t typically get the same headline attention that other British men’s tennis players like Andy Murray or Kyle Edmund – even Dan Evans – attract. However, it hasn’t kept the British No. 3 from being the go-to guy this week during The Battle Of The Brits mixed team event at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England.

On Wednesday afternoon, the 77th-ranked Norrie faced No. 28 Evans for the second time in three days and, like Monday, he beat the British No. 1 to lift the spirts of the British Bulldogs against the Union Jacks. This time, Norrie won by the thinnest of margins – a pair of tie-break sets – 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), in one hour and 57 minutes on Centre Court.

“It was tough,” said Norrie, who overcame six double faults by serving two aces and hitting 26 winners. He also converted three of three break points against Evans. “I beat him on Monday, so I had a bit of pressure on me. We’ve both been playing well … I like playing outdoors. Such a battle out there and I was lucky to get through in the end. I played aggressive when I needed to.”

Norrie came from 1-5 down in the second set to pull even and force a tie-break. While Evans had his chances to force a decisive set, Norrie held firm and came on strong at the end to win, which gave the British Bulldogs two big points. “I gained some confidence. I stayed focused,” he said. “I didn’t want to give it away. I’m really pleased to get through that.”

Later in the afternoon, Norrie teamed with Beth Grey for a 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 mixed doubles win over Jamie Murray and Katie Boulter.

Meanwhile, 50th-ranked Heather Watson overcame a shaky start against No. 486 Eden Silva and came on strong to gain a 3-6, 6-1, 10-6 victory. It represented the first decisive-set win for the Union Jacks this week. As the momentum began to favor the British No. 2 Watson from the middle set through the end of the match tie-break, she used her defensive strength as an attacking weapon. Watson broke Silva three times in 10 tries and caused her opponent to commit 14 unforced errors. Meanwhile, Watson converted 72 percent of her first serves and 53 percent of her second serves into points and hit 15 winners.

“I thought Eden played very well. I barely remember her making any unforced errors,” said Watson after winning her second singles match of the week. “She was moving very well. I was maybe playing overly aggressive and needed to find the court a bit more. I missed a lot of balls like within an inch. It was really small margins in the first set. The second set, things really clicked and in the tie-breaker, it’s really anyone’s game. I thought I did well and played strong at the end.”

Elsewhere, Emma Raducanu, who at age 17 is the youngest competitor this week, remained undefeated following her 7-5, 6-3 win over in-form No. 289 Jodie Burrage. On Monday, No. 338 Raducanu defeated No. 374 Boulter in straight sets and yesterday, teamed with Joe Salisbury for a win over Burrage and Andy Murray in mixed doubles.

“I think Jodie played a very good match and we both played a really high level,” said Raducanu during an on-court interview after her win. “I’m just pleased to have come through and kept going.”

Raducanu won 71 percent of her first serve points and hit 16 winners while keeping her unforced errors low with 12. She converted four of 11 break points against the more experienced Burrage.

“Really pleased with the improvements I made in lockdown, the forehand especially and the return of serve,” said Raducanu. “I’m playing aggressively and mentally I’m really strong at the moment.”

Finally, Salisbury and Kyle Edmund closed out another strong day for the British Bulldogs with their 6-3, 6-4 doubles win over Evans and Jamie Murray. Salisbury and Edmund combined to hit 22 winners and just three unforced errors.

Going into Thursday’s Day 4, the British Bulldogs hold a commanding 29-12 lead. First team to 60 points wins the championship title.

Big names missing from Western & Southern Open

With the provisional entry list released for the WTA’s Western & Southern Open, which this year because of safety and health concerns due to the coronavirus has been shifted from its home in Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, starting Aug. 22, there are some big names missing: five of the women’s Top 10. Among them are World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 5 Elina Svitolina, No. 6 Bianca Andreescu and No. 10 Naomi Osaka.

Thursday morning in Australia, Barty announced she would remain home and not play either the Western & Southern Open or the US Open. It’s a decision she’s thought long and hard about.

“My team and I have decided that we won’t be traveling to the U.S. for the Western & Southern Open and the US Open this year,” she said, quoted by News.com.au.

Last weekend, Halep pulled out of the Palermo Ladies Open in Italy but is still entered in the Prague Open, which begins August 10 in the Czech Republic. She, as well as Barty and Svitolina, have been vocal about their hesitance to travel internationally and play in New York. Meanwhile, Andreescu has not played in 2020 and has been idle since injuring her knee in the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China, last November. As for the 2018 US Open champion Osaka, she’s been idle since losing in the third round of the Australian Open to Coco Gauff in January and has played in just eight matches during 2020 (going 5-3).

Recently, Osaka has posted training videos on social media, which suggests she’s healthy. However, during the tennis lockdown that began in March, Osaka has found her voice in speaking out on social issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement while forsaking any exhibition play. (Osaka was born in Japan and is the product of a Japanese mother and Haitian father. While she represents Japan internationally, she lives and trains in the United States and has residences in both Florida and California.)

WTA Asian swing all but wiped out

With the announcement that Tokyo’s WTA event, the Toray Pan Pacific Open, wont’ be held in 2020 due to safety fears from the coronavirus – coupled with last week’s cancellation by the Chinese government of all seven of China’s WTA tournaments – a tough year has gotten tougher as the Asian swing is all but wiped out.

The organizers of the Toray Pan Pacific Open said in an official statement and posted on the WTA website: “It is with great regret that the Toray Pan Pacific Tennis Executive Committee, after much consultation with WTA, derided to cancel the Toray Pan Pacific Open Tennis 2020.

“With the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the WTA Premier tournament in Tokyo, Japan, was initially postponed for two months from September to November. The Executive Committee looked at every possible way to make this tournament happen, including the idea of holding matches without audiences or restricting admissions in order to prioritize the health and safety of everyone involved including players, officials and judges, ball boys and girls, stewards, sponsors and partners, suppliers and contractors, media, guests and all other staff.

“However, after a series of deliberations, the Executive Committee made a heartrending decision to rule out the postponement, and concluded that the cancelation of the tournament was the best decision in the interest of public health, especially in light of the concern about the second wave of infection spreading in Japan.”

The Toray Pan Pacific Open has been a fixture on the WTA calendar since 1984. This year, it was originally scheduled for the week of September 21, but was postponed to November. Now, the Korea Open in Seoul is the only Asian tournament still remaining on the WTA’s provisional calendar for the remainder of 2020.

WTT showdown goes to Freedoms

With first place in World TeamTennis on the line Wednesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Freedoms came from behind to pull out a 22-21 victory over the Chicago Smash at The Greenbrier Resort in West Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The match came down to the men’s singles encounter between Philadelphia’s Taylor Fritz and Chicago’s Brandon Nakashima, which Fritz won 7-6 in a tie-break decider.

Philadelphia had jumped out to a 10-7 lead after winning the men’s doubles (Fritz and Fabrice Martin) and women’s singles (Sofia Kenin) sets. However, Chicago rallied in mixed doubles (Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Rajeev Ram) and women’s doubles (Mattek-Sands and Eugenie Bouchard). Chicago held a 17-16 lead going into the men’s singles set before Fritz pulled the Freedom even with a 5-4 win over Nakashima to force the tie-break decider.

The victory improved the Freedoms to 11-2 with one regular-season match to play and it clinched the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s playoffs. The Smash (9-4) have clinched a playoff berth along with the Orlando Storm, also 9-4. The fourth and final playoff berth was clinched by the New York Empire (7-6) after beating the Orange County Breakers 21-19 on Wednesday afternoon.