Norrie Races Into Indian Wells Final

Cameron Norrie (photo: ATP Tour video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 17, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Cameron Norrie is enjoy nothing less than a banner season on the ATP Tour this year. After beating a resurgent Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets in the semifinal round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif. Saturday afternoon, not only is the 26th-ranked Norrie set to play in his sixth singles final of 2021, he’s guaranteed to break into the Top 20 as well as rise to British No. 1 next week.

After reaching the final at the San Diego Open before traveling across southern California to Indian Wells, the 21st-seeded Norrie has moved into his second straight ATP Tour title match thanks to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 23 seed Dimitrov that lasted an hour and 26 minutes at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It’s also Norrie’s first ATP Masters 1000 final and on Sunday, he will attempt to become the first British player to win the Indian Wells title in tournament history.

Next, Norrie will face No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, who beat No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, 7-6 (5), 6-3, in the second semifinal.

The 26-year-old Londoner, born in South Africa, raised in New Zealand, collegiately educated at Texas Christian University in the United States and now playing for Great Britain, broke his Bulgarian opponent at the beginning of each set and it proved to be a difference maker.

“It was the biggest match of my career, following on from yesterday, which was the biggest match,” Norrie said during a court-side TV interview. “There was even more pressure today. I came out and played really physical. Grigor was maybe a little tired from the other matches, but he fought hard and made it physical at the start of the second set, which wasn’t easy.”

Although some of Norrie’s final stats didn’t stand out – he finished with just five winners and 13 unforced errors to 16 each for Dimitrov – he won 65 percent (36 of 55) of his service points and 45 percent (28 of 62) of his return points and outpointed his opponent 64-53. He converted four of seven break points and was broken just once.

Overall, it all added up to Norrie’s 46th victory of the season. Now, he’ll try to add to his one career ATP tour-level title, which he won earlier this season at Los Cabos.

“I’ve been playing a lot of big matches this year, which has helped,” Norrie said. “I feel like I am used to the big moments and the big matches. I’m feeling more and more comfortable and I feel like I am playing on my terms in key moments.”

Basilashvili powers his way past Fritz

In the other semifinal, between Fritz and Basilashvili – both appearing in their first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal – the American from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., brought a 2-1 head-to-head advantage against his Georgian opponent and it was their third meeting of the season. However, the stoic and disciplined Basilashvili came up big when it mattered most. Although it took four match points for him to close the deal, the 29-year-old from Tbilisi came through in the end to eliminate Fritz, the lone American in either the men’s or women’s semifinals.

The 36th-ranked Basilashvili saved all seven break points he faced, including two in his final service game, and he finished the one-hour and 41-minute 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory with 26 winners – 14 from his forehand side – to 11 for Fritz. He won by playing power tennis and keeping his unforced errors (14) in check.

After enduring through five first-round Masters 1000 losses in six appearances this year prior to Indian Wells, the Georgian saved three set points in the opening set and once he broke the No. 39 Fritz to go ahead 4-2 in the second set, maintained his positive demeanor to the finish.

During his on-court TV interview, Basilashvili said of reaching his first Masters 1000 final: “It means a lot, especially at Indian Wells, which people call it like a fifth Grand Slam. … To get through so many matches is very important. I’m at the top of my game now and feeling the best.”

Basilashvili’s win over Fritz brought his season win-loss record to 32-24 heading into Sunday’s final against Norrie. The two have met once, earlier this season at Rotterdam, with Norrie winning 6-0, 6-3.

“This was my first time in a Masters 1000 semifinal, so I was a little bit tight,” Basilashvili observed. “I just tried to get rid of [the tension] as much as I could because if I just focus on my game I can play good tennis.”

Peers and Polasek win men’s doubles trophy 

Seventh seeds John Peers of Australia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia edged Russia’s unseeded Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev, 6-3, 7-6 (5), in one hour and 29 minutes to win the BNP Paribas Open men’s doubles title Saturday night.

It was a showdown comprised of a pair of recently-teamed doubles specialists (Peers and Polasek) against a doubles team comprised of a couple of Top 30 singles stars (Karatsev and Rublev), who came together to win an early season title in Doha and arrived at the Indian Wells showdown riding an eight-match winning streak.

Peers, 33, and Polasek, 36, were playing in their second straight title match as a team and in just their sixth tournament together. The title victory improved their team record to 13-5. The week before the start of Indian Wells, Peers (ranked 23rd) and Polasek (ranked 10th) lost the San Diego Open final to Great Britain’s Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury.

The Australian/Slovak partnership began at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. in August. Since the US Open, they’re 12-2. En route to their title quest, Peers and Polasek upset No. 1 seeds and top-ranked doubles team Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinal round.

The title was the fourth Masters 1000 for Peers and his 25th career doubles title. For Polasek, it was his second Masters 1000 and 16th career doubles title.

“It’s always great fun getting back to the desert and playing here,” Peers said in press, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “To be able to say we have won the title here is very special. We started pretty slow as a team but we put in some good work pre-US Open.

“It’s been a lot of fun since and we’ve continued to work and enjoy playing together. We’re riding the doubles rollercoaster and will try to get results like this more often. We’re looking forward to continuing together.”

Added Polasek: “I’m really happy the way we played. We came here early, which helped us to adapt to the conditions. It was very different to play in the day than in the night sessions, which we played in our last matches, and we were probably able to adapt the best of all teams.”

By the numbers

• For the first time in 280 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments held since the series began in 1990, all four semifinalists were ranked outside of the Top 25: World No. 26 Cameron Norrie, No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 36 Nikoloz Basilashvili and No. 39 Taylor Fritz.

• Nikoloz Basilashvili became the first player from the country of Georgia to advance to an ATP Masters 1000 semifinal since Irakli Labadze at Indian Wells in 2004 (lost to Tim Henman). Basilashvili is into his third ATP Tour final of the season (2-0) and eighth in his career (5-2). Since losing his first two finals in 2016-17, he has won his last five.

“Quotable …”

“Roger Federer. My win against Roger meant a lot to me because he was my idol. He is as for everyone, you know. I would say Roger’s win was very important in my career. Beating Stefanos was, as well, [a] really, really important match.”

Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, World No. 36 and seeded 29th, on which of his wins this season was bigger, Roger Federer or Stefanos Tsitsipas.