The nomadic existence of Cameron Norrie calls to mind a Jack Kerouac novel, only without the dusk-'til-dawn excess. No sooner has he packed his bags in southern California, fresh from the finest victory of his life , than he is back on the road across the Mojave Desert, dashing to catch a flight to his next tournament in Vienna.
He suggests, as we talk during his drive back to Los Angeles airport, that he would have liked a more lavish celebration, but the nightlife options in a community with an average age of 68 are limited.
"Nice meal, one drink," he says of his evening. "There's not a lot happening on a Sunday night in Indian Wells."
READ MORE: Kiwi-raised tennis star Cameron Norrie lost his shoes before $1.7m win at Indian Wells ‘Can't really believe it’: Auckland raised Cameron Norrie wins Indian Wells Masters final Nz-raised tennis star Cameron Norrie’s heart-rate would kill most mortals
So earnest is Norrie in his quest for self-improvement, he is yet to compute the full magnitude of what he has just achieved. For him to become the first British winner, male or female, of an event widely recognised as "the fifth slam" is, he admits, "definitely surprising".
But he is on such a hamster-wheel, having amassed 47 match wins this year – three more than even Novak Djokovic – that he is wired to keep looking ever forwards, not back.
"From here, the pressure only quadruples," insists a player who makes no secret of his ambition to become world No 1 within three years. "But I'm ready for that. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."
At some level, the emotion of his triumph does register, especially when Norrie is on a trans-Pacific phone call to his mother, Helen, at the family's Auckland home. "She was in tears, so emotional," he says. "I felt for her, because she really wanted to be here supporting me."
It has been the most fraught element of his annus mirabilis , this physical detachment from his parents. While he has reached six finals this year, neither his mother nor father have been able to attend any, knowing that if they left New Zealand, a country that has only recently shelved a zero-Covid policy, they would be subject to two weeks' quarantine on their return.
"It's difficult not sharing these moments with them," Norrie says. "I miss them a lot. But while it's tough not to have them around, I think it's even tougher for them, being stuck in New Zealand. They both love their tennis. My dad follows all the results, and not only mine, but those of all the British players. I just hope that we can all spend next summer together in Europe."
Microbiologists by profession, Norrie's parents are, as he explains, highly accomplished squash players. "My mum's a good runner, so is my granddad. We're a big sporting family."
It is no exaggeration: Welsh-born Helen has a marathon personal best just outside three hours, while his father David, a proud son of Glasgow, represented West of Scotland in junior tennis. But for all this abundant genetic fortune, Cameron's development is not the classic tale of the hot-housed tennis prodigy.
Born in Johannesburg, where Helen and David had met on research postings, he learned at just three that the family would be emigrating due to security concerns. They had already suffered robberies, while a neighbour had been held up at gunpoint.
"A couple of times, we had our house broken into – it was becoming unsafe," he recalls. "So they just decided to move to New Zealand. It was incredibly hard for them. My mum had to leave her parents, all her sisters, all to go to a country where they didn't know anyone. It was amazing for them to do that. But they picked a great place, without doubt one of the safest environments in which to grow up."
‘All tennis players are living out of suitcases’
Norrie's accent attests to his multinational upbringing: it wanders all over the place, from flat South African vowels to a Kiwi twang, with a few echoes of his Fort Worth college years at Texas Christian University (TCU) thrown in. Not that he considers himself an outlier on this front. "We all feel like we're citizens of the world in tennis," he says. "We're all living out of suitcases."
His American connections have helped him negotiate the loneliness of life on tour. Besides his girlfriend Louise, a New York-based textiles consultant who studied at Central St Martins in London, Norrie had in his Indian Wells player's box Linda Cappel, a woman who had taken him under his wing from his earliest days at TCU.
"I was good friends with her – she owns the pro's shop there," he explains. "I would always see her around and talk to her. When I turned pro and played a lot of Challengers in the States, I asked whether I could stay at her house when I was back in Texas. 'No worries,' she said. She helped me so much, just in terms of feeling like I had a home. She's such a genuine person and it was great to experience this moment with her."
For Cappel, indeed for anybody who has tracked Norrie's rise from a young age, the events of the past fortnight have been astonishing.
Unlike Emma Raducanu, whose record-shattering US Open win had driven him on , Norrie has tended to see his progress unfold in increments, not quantum leaps. But his latest performances, sweeping aside Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov and Nikoloz Basilashvili in the space of four days, have redefined his parameters.
A crucial component of his success, he argues, has been his stamina, with long-time coach Facundo Lugones marvelling at his ability to compete at abnormally high heart rates of more than 180 beats per minute.
"It's funny, I have gained so many followers on Strava lately, just from people tracking my runs," he laughs.
"I have a pretty good engine. When my heart rate is so high, I seem to be able to play even better, without making bad decisions. It almost switches the mind off, so that I can play more instinctive tennis.
"I don't know exactly how I'm doing it, but it's a huge factor in why I'm doing so well, why I'm staying in the rallies longer. Even if I do lose a point, I'm able to back it up over the next couple, taking guys to places where they're uncomfortable and which suit my style."
Norrie's gifts can be deceptive. At 6ft 2in, he is unlikely to overpower many opponents, but in Indian Wells he encountered the arid desert conditions that matched his game perfectly.
"With it being quite slow and the ball getting held up a lot, I was able to use my physicality to my advantage. I'm not a player who's going to come out and hit you off the court. But I can chip away at people.
"There's no easy way to do it, other than to keep every rally going, trying to bait guys into playing my way. I've been sitting here with my coach in the car, and we were reflecting on how I had managed to serve out every set when called to do so. You gain a lot of confidence from that."
While his own feats have taken place in the shadow of the Raducanu miracle and of 34-year-old Andy Murray's masochistic resolve to keep playing with a metal hip, Norrie is relieved, at 26, to assume a central role in a remarkable chapter for British tennis. He is already involved in the Rado YoungStars campaign, designed to support the sport's most promising talents.
"I'm sure Emma is going to inspire so many more boys and girls to pick up rackets," he says. "I was inspired not just by her run but by the fashion in which she did it. She won every match so comfortably and handled the occasion tremendously. As a country, we are doing great."
Norrie's own aspirations extend far beyond making next month's tour finals in Turin. Now the world No 16, he is hell-bent on annexing the top spot within the next three years.
"I want to get to world No 1, that's the ultimate goal. Everyone on my team has the same target. Clearly it's extremely difficult to do, and there's a long road ahead. But we set high expectations and we're going to strive towards them."
For several years, Norrie has flown beneath the radar. But after two weeks spent confounding everything he knew about his own capabilities, he has seen a path to future greatness emerge under the desert sun.
- Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce dies at age 20
- At World Cup, U.S. Team’s Pride Is Felt by Others, Too
- Cameron Boyce, Disney Channel star, dies at 20
- High school notebook: J.W. Mashburn, Jim Bolding headline 2019 OKCPS Hall of Fame class
- Andreescu vs. Osaka might just be the rivalry women’s tennis needs
- Pompeo aims to counter China’s ambitions in the Arctic
- POLITICO Playbook: The political world Trump made
- Boris Johnson Has Star Quality, but Can He Run a Government?
- Column One: As Coachella raged, the L.A. tech world made plans to live on Mars
- Tennis column: St. George becoming a real tennis town
- The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years
- Disney Channel actor Cameron Boyce dies at age 20
- Black schools hope NBA star's gift sparks a golf resurgence
- Cameron Wagoner looks to make most of final season at Tecumseh
- 1988: The Year Donald Trump Lost His Mind
- Game of Thrones: Peter Dinklage and more TV, movie stars from NJ
- To achieve today’s moonshots, we must be bold
- Team USA rejected Carmelo Anthony’s request to play in World Cup
- Wojo: With Juwan Howard, Michigan leaps boldly into the unknown
- Megan Rapinoe makes one more bold statement in World Cup final
'World No 1 within three years': NZ-raised tennis star Cameron Norrie's bold ambition have 1773 words, post on www.stuff.co.nz at October 20, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.