French Open: Cam Norrie carries British hopes after Johanna Konta and Heather Watson exit Paris
Cam Norrie will be flying the British flag in singles competition after Johanna Konta and Heather Watson bowed out of French Open with first-round defeats on Monday; Norrie is a player very much in form having reached ATP Tour finals in Estoril and Lyon over the past month
Last Updated: 01/06/21 10:30am
Cam Norrie is Britain's sole representative left at Roland Garros after Johanna Konta and Heather Watson followed Dan Evans out of the clay-court Grand Slam in Paris.
All six British singles players lost in the first round last year, and Evans, Konta and Watson were all beaten in their opening matches here.
But Norrie, who has been in brilliant form on the clay this year, avoided joining them with an excellent 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory over American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo.
"I guess I'm going to have to lead the nation and just go out and play my tennis. I'm not really worrying about how the others are doing too much. I know we've got a lot of Brits in the doubles, so that's exciting," said Norrie, who has gone
further than all his compatriots by reaching the third round at both the US Open last year and Australian Open in February.
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"I think Cam's brilliant. I think Cam is one of the nicest guys we have at home. I think he's incredibly hard-working, he puts his head down. I think he's a great player. I think he plays the game well, and, yeah, I think he really is walking his own path. The way he went to American college, as well, he's doing it his own way. Yeah, no, I hope he does really well."
Johanna Konta on Cam Norrie
The British No 2 has reached ATP Tour finals in Estoril and Lyon over the past month and beaten two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, so expectations were high for his campaign at Roland Garros.
Norrie could meet Rafael Nadal in the third round, but the world No 45 will take on Lloyd Harris first after the South African upset 26th-seeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego 7-5 6-4 6-4.
Norrie said: "On the big points, I came up with some good stuff and I think that stems from the matches I've played earlier in the clay season, taking a lot of confidence from that, but on average I don't think I played well at all, especially on my serve and my forehand. I was a little bit tentative at times.
"You always have doubts here and there and being the favourite, obviously wanting to maintain the level I have been playing in the other matches, especially in a slam. I was a little bit nervous before the match.
"I think my worst level has risen a lot. In previous years, I wouldn't have come through as easily today. I was happy with how I competed today more than anything else."
British No 1 Konta will tumble out of the top 30 after suffering another first-round defeat at Roland Garros.
Konta was defending ranking points from her brilliant run to the semi-finals at the tournament in 2019 but has not won a match on any other occasion she has played on the Parisian clay.
She led early in the first set against Romanian Sorana Cirstea, who beat her at the US Open last summer, but made far too many errors thereafter and fell to a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 defeat.
"I just didn't find consistent enough answers," she said. "I think I had a few too many loose return games as well, which just didn't keep enough pressure on her."
Konta's slide down the rankings could yet get significantly worse, with the 30-year-old defending a lot of points at Wimbledon and the US Open.
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Watson's poor run of form continued as she suffered a second successive first-round loss.
Watson had won just one of her last seven matches prior to arriving in Paris, with that sole victory coming against a player ranked outside the top 400 in the Billie Jean King Cup last month.
She cited niggling injuries as a contributing factor and had her right shoulder strapped during a 6-4 7-5 loss to 93rd-ranked Kazakh Zarina Diyas.
"I have had a cold this week," explained Watson. "I haven't been able to practice as much as I wanted to before in the weeks prior because of the injuries. I have had to take lots of days off that I wouldn't usually have."
The world No 71 is now looking forward to the grass-court campaign with Nottingham and Birmingham already on her itinerary ahead of Wimbledon, which starts on June 28.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back on the grass," added Watson. "To be honest, I'm just really looking forward to getting some good training and some good practice matches in, because I have just been lacking that this whole clay-court season. It's just a bit of a write-off for me, unfortunately."