Monday, October 2, 2017

Britain's Norrie rises to the occasion in Tiburon

Cameron Norrie defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-3
on Sunday to win the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.)
Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   TIBURON, Calif. -- Cameron Norrie earned more than a title and $14,400 on Sunday.
   The 22-year-old South African/Kiwi/American/Briton gained redemption with his 6-2, 6-3 victory over Tennys Sandgren in the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger.
   "Obviously, it was a big match for me," crowed Norrie, who won his second and biggest Challenger singles title only four months after turning pro out of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. "My last final, I had a terrible performance. I wanted to make sure I got every detail right.
   "I stuck to my game plan. I tried to be aggressive and be the one dictating play. I played really well when I needed to. My serve went (away) a little bit at the start of the second set, but it started coming around. I really wanted to win, and I'm happy I beat him today."
   Two weeks ago in the final of a $50,000 hard-court tournament in Cary, N.C., Norrie lost to unheralded American Kevin King 6-4, 6-1. In the second round, Norrie defeated Sandgren 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to even their head-to-head series at 2-2.
   This time, Norrie was fresher than Sandgren on a typically gorgeous fall day at the Tiburon Peninsula Club in the hills across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. While the eighth-seeded Norrie dispatched unseeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-3, 6-2 in 57 minutes in Saturday's semifinals, the second-seeded Sandgren needed 1 hour, 48 minutes to subdue local favorite Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3).
   "Cam played too good today," conceded Sandgren, a 26-year-old American. "I feel like my legs are a little tired from yesterday's match. It kind of took a lot out of me against Mackie yesterday, but Cam played too good. He came up with some fantastic shots on some big points. I feel like the longer the points went, the better it was for him, but he's not a particularly easy guy to finish points off quickly against. All credit to him."
   The 1-hour, 16-minute final was more competitive and entertaining than the score indicates. Norrie and Sandgren engaged in many long, athletic points, eliciting "oohs" and "aahs" from the estimated crowd of 600.
   Both players, however, had serving issues.
   Norrie overcame eight double faults, including three in a game twice. He managed to hold serve the first time his serve deserted him but was broken the second time in the opening game of the second set. It was the only time Norrie lost his serve in the match, as he saved five of six break points against him.
Tennys Sandgren received a check for $8,480 from Wells Fargo executive
Thomas Sands, left, and tournament director Brendan Curry. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Sandgren was called for two foot faults. Even though he lost his serve both times, once in each set, he said the miscues were not a factor in the outcome of the match.
   Norrie, a left-hander, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to a Scottish father and Welsh mother. The family moved to New Zealand, and Norrie starred at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth for three years. He reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2015 and semifinals in 2016, and also was the runner-up to British countryman Daniel Evans in the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger last year. Aptos is a two-hour drive south of affluent Tiburon.
   After leading the Horned Frogs to the NCAA quarterfinals in May as a junior, Norrie bypassed the individual tournament and turned pro.
   "I thought I was going to get into the French Open (qualifying)," he explained. "I ended up missing out my a couple of spots (in the rankings), and I needed a break before the grass-court season. It was the smartest move possible for my pro career, and I couldn't really gain anything from winning (the NCAA singles title), so there was no point in playing the individual tournament for me."
   Norrie said he "feels British. My parents are both British, and I lived in London for three or four years before college. I feel at home there. My dad has a filthy Scottish accent, so I feel British."
   Norrie receives financial support from the British federation, but that's only one reason he plays for Great Britain.
   "No one cares about tennis in New Zealand," Norrie groused. "All the money goes into rugby, and New Zealand is so far away to play tournaments, and there's no tournaments in New Zealand. To me, it was a no-brainer to move (to Great Britain)."
Former Cal stars Florian Lakat, left, and Andre Goransson
won the doubles title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sandgren has his own family story. For the record, he was not named after tennis. He was given his great grandfather's Swedish name. Tennys, however, is from Tennessee. He rebounded from 2014 hip surgery to crack the top 100 for the first time in June. Sandgren was seeking his fourth Challenger singles title and third this year.
   Both Norrie and Sandgren played in their first two Grand Slam singles main draws this year. Norrie lost in the first round at Wimbledon and reached the second round of the U.S. Open. Sandgren fell in the first round of the French Open and U.S. Open.
   Both players also attained career-high rankings with their Tiburon results. Sandgren, who earned $8,480, improved seven places to No. 97. Norrie jumped 29 spots to No. 136.
   Wild cards Andre Goransson and Florian Lakat, both of whom completed their eligibility at Cal in May, surprised top-seeded Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela of Mexico 6-4, 6-4 for the doubles title.
   Goransson, from Sweden, and Lakat, from France, collected $3,100 each.
   Here are the completed Tiburon Challenger singles and doubles draws.
   Also, here are the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws and Monday's schedule. The tournament is being held at the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center at the University of the Pacific.

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