Australian Open 2021: For some, going through a Grand Slam legend means a dream come true. And an unbalanced defeat

It is a delicate steadiness when somebody like Cameron Norrie – ranked 69th and, till this week, proprietor of a grand complete of six Grand Slam wins – bumps into somebody from Rafa Nadal’s stature on one of many largest levels in his sport.

Serena Williams (left), is congratulated by Anastasia Potapova after profitable her third spherical match on the Australian Open. AP Photograph

Forward of his match in opposition to Rafael Nadal on the Australian Open, Cameron Norrie hit what seemed like all the precise notes, the type of emotions that specific a wholesome mixture of respect and belief.

A little bit intimidated, however not too intimidated. A little bit impressed, however not too impressed.

It is a delicate steadiness when somebody like Norrie – ranked 69th and, till this week, proprietor of a grand complete of six Grand Slam wins – bumps into somebody of stature. of Nadal on one of many largest levels of his sport. Taking part in in opposition to a giant – any member of the Large Three, say, or Serena Williams – at a significant match after all gives loads of alternatives: a second within the highlight; an encounter with an idol; a solution to measure your self in opposition to the very best; an opportunity for a career-changing consequence.

Or, greater than possible, an unbalanced loss. And for some, it is OK.

Norrie, a 25-year-old southpaw who attended Texas Christian College and represents Nice Britain, spoke earlier than going through Nadal at Rod Laver Area on the prospect of an “unbelievable expertise.” About the necessity to “maintain going and luxuriate in each minute” of Saturday’s third spherical assembly.

He admitted that Nadal is “a legend” in a single breath, and within the subsequent referred to as the 2009 champion at Melbourne Park “simply one other participant” and vowed to “present him what I obtained.” Ultimately, unsurprisingly, it was Nadal who confirmed what he’s obtained, profitable 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 to maneuver nearer to his twenty first Grand Slam title, males’s document, whereas stopping Norrie from getting nearer to his first.

“It is at all times going to be good,” Norrie stated afterwards, “enjoying a giant canine like Rafa.”

The rating was barely tighter than Nadal’s earlier victory: 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 over Michael Mmoh, a 23-year-old Florida ranked 177th. Mmoh referred to as Nadal “somebody I’ve watched for years and years – ever since I used to be, like, slightly child, nearly.”

This kind of recreation is “positively what we dream of,” stated Mmoh. “I could not be happier.”

Casper Ruud, a 22-year-old Norwegian who reached the spherical of 16 in a significant for the primary time on Saturday, recalled making his third spherical debut in opposition to Roger Federer on the 2019 French Open.

“He is a troublesome third-round opponent, the largest of all of them,” Ruud stated. “So that you assume extra in regards to the expertise – being within the third spherical – than perhaps fascinated by profitable the sport.”

Gamers say that every of those sorties in opposition to this caliber of enemy makes the following one much less intimidating. There’s a distinction between going right into a recreation pondering there is no such thing as a shot in a win and having some semblance of self-confidence.

Anastasia Potapova, a Russian teenager who received a junior title at Wimbledon in 2016, misplaced to Williams 6-0, 6-3 a 12 months in the past within the first spherical of the Australian Open. The rematch got here within the third spherical on Friday, and Potapova made issues much more attention-grabbing, even twice at one level after profitable the primary set in what turned a 7-6 (5), 6- 2.

“I did not really feel like, ‘Oh, my God, I am enjoying Serena.’ No, I have been there earlier than, ”Potapova stated. “I felt extra, I’d say, relaxed in my head.

When the attracts come out to a significant, some gamers examine them. Most, it appears, attempt to keep away from figuring out greater than the identify of their subsequent enemy.

Maybe blame the superstition. Or a want, because the cliché says, to concentrate on one recreation at a time.

Inevitably, nonetheless, if an early assembly with a famous person is imminent, it is exhausting to disregard.

Nina Stojanovic, a 24-year-old Serbian ranked 99th, arrived in Melbourne with out profitable a Slam match. So there was no manner for her to look previous the primary spherical.

“Then my coach requested me, ‘For those who win, you recognize who you are enjoying within the second spherical?’ And I stated, ‘Who?’ And he stated, “Serena. And I used to be like, ‘What ?! Actually?! In truth?! Stojanovic stated in a video interview with The Related Press. “For me, all these years enjoying tennis, it was my want to play in opposition to Serena. I like his recreation. I love his recreation.

What if the ultimate rating ends in 6-3, 6-0 in favor of the 23-time Grand Slam champion?

“I actually loved it,” Stojanovic stated, smiling about his afternoon. “Although I misplaced.”

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