Cameron Norrie advanced to the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia after a straight set victory over young local wild card Luca Nardi, 6-4 6-4. Despite the 190-place difference in the rankings, it was not an easy opener for the world number 11, who had to play some of his best tennis on the key moments.
“Luca played well,” he explained after the match. “I was a little bit nervous at first as I didn’t really know too much about him. He plays really good on the front foot. I started a little bit nervous and missed a lot of balls from the start, but then I found my range and I served well when I needed to. I relaxed a little bit in the second set and played some better tennis”.
Despite the difficulties to adapt to a player he knew little about, he was satisfied with his performance, especially on the key points: “it just came down to a couple points here and there and I managed to play better than him in the bigger moments”.
Having been tested by Nardi, the Brit feels that the youngster has what it takes to make a splash on the big tour. As for himself, he enjoyed the chance of playing with a big passionate crowd involved: “(he is a) really good, young, up-and-coming player. The crowd got behind him as well. It was a lot of fun with the atmosphere and the crowd getting involved. I enjoyed it on that front. It’s never easy playing on the other side of that. It was cool to experience that as well. Just shows how much Italians love their tennis”.
Despite having never played on clay until close to the end of his junior years, Norrie is enjoying great success on the surface, though every year he knows it takes a little more time to find his groove on it: “Growing up in New Zealand, I didn’t really play on clay at all. There’re no clay courts. I think the first time I ever played a match on clay was when I was 16 or 17 years old. It was pretty new for me then. I feel like I have a really good game to play well on it, being lefty, having a very heavy forehand. Forehand has improved a lot. When I’m enjoying it, moving well, like I said, hitting the spots, I feel like I’m going to be tough to beat. I feel like I have a good game on the clay”.
Having lost after a close fight with Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid and after a solid start here in Rome, Norrie feels like he is reaching his best form when it matters the most at this time of the year: “Hopefully these matches are just getting me ready for the French Open where I want to peak and do well there, play my best tennis there. It’s all coming together nicely”.