Australian Open 2021: ‘Norrie’s only chance is to try to wear him down' - Wilander on Nadal clash
The British number three reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the second time in his career by beating Roman Safiullin and now faces one of the toughest tests in tennis - a first meeting with Rafael Nadal. Mats Wilander says he’ll have to serve well to have any chance, while Norrie himself says he will try to “enjoy every minute” of the tie.
Mats Wilander is not sure if Cameron Norrie “has enough weapons” to hurt Rafael Nadal when they meet in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The British number three reached this stage of a Grand Slam for the second time in his career with a four-set win over Roman Safiullin, and with it set up a first meeting with the 20-time major champion.
But Wilander thinks it will be a tall order for Norrie to make the last-16 for the first time, unless he can get everything right and catch Nadal on an off-day.
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“This is going to be very hard for Norrie – because a leftie versus Rafa doesn’t help at all”, said the three-time Melbourne title winner.
“You can’t serve out to his backhand with a slice serve because it goes straight into Rafa’s strength. I think there’s a chance there I guess, but Norrie has to serve a high percentage of big first serves to have any kind of chance against Rafa.
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“I have been very impressed with Rafa in the two matches he has played. He’s playing close to the baseline, hitting the ball as hard as he is. He looks great, he is playing very aggressive.
If Cameron Norrie is going to have any kind of chance against Rafa Nadal, it’s definitely on this surface with this style that he plays. It’s a match that Rafa has to work hard to win but I don’t know if I see Norrie have enough weapons, except maybe wear Rafa down and he could be suffering physically a little bit.
For Norrie, it is a chance to face a tennis great, and the British player says it is not an opportunity he will let pass him by.
Rafael Nadal has been in solid form at the Australian Open so far
Image credit: Getty Images
“It's going to be an unbelievable experience. I think I just have to go after it and enjoy every minute against him”, said the 25-year-old, who previously represented New Zealand.
“I never thought I would play against them (one of the ‘big three’ - Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer).
I was kind of watching them when I was young and thinking it would be cool to play against one of them. But I thought it was never going to happen. So it's going to be unbelievable and really looking forward to it, it's going to be amazing.
“At the end of the day it's just another tennis match and I'm going to enjoy it afterwards, and then go out there and do what I can and see what he's got.”
Norrie was also planning on getting some inside knowledge of how to deal with Nadal from his Davis Cup team-mate, Andy Murray: “That would definitely be a good thing to do.
I have watched Rafa so much over the years. So, yeah, I'm going to leave that up to my coach and just he'll get a good plan together, maybe message Andy and see what his thoughts are.
“We play obviously pretty different, me being lefty, but, yeah, he's definitely got some good tips in there.”
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Nadal says he will not be taking Norrie lightly, having been impressed with how he despatched fellow British player Dan Evans in the opening round.
“He has experience on the tour already. (It’s) going to be the toughest test, without a doubt”, said Nadal.
I mean, we are in the third round of a Grand Slam. I cannot expect an easy opponent. Norrie will not be an easy opponent.
“I know he has a great level of tennis, and I’m going to try to be ready for the challenge. It’s going to be a good test for me, and at the same time I need to play tough matches to be ready, and to be tested. Norrie will be one of these.”