French Open 2021: Nadal Plays Norrie In Third Round

 French Open 2021: Nadal Plays Norrie In Third Round

The British No 2 overcame Lloyd Harris and meets Rafael Nadal after the 13-time French Open winner prevailed over Richard Gasquet in the night match on Thursday

Cameron Norrie reached the third round of the French Open for the first time with a gritty victory over Lloyd Harris and he will now meet the 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.

The British No 2’s 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-2 success over Lloyd Harris continues a superbly consistent run of form since the tour resumed last summer.

Meanwhile, Nadal ensured that he had a happy birthday as he prevailed over Richard Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2 in the night session.

The two men’s third-round meeting will be their third encounter of the season, after Norrie acquitted himself very well in the third round of the Australian Open before facing the great Spaniard on clay in Barcelona in April.

Against Harris, Norrie paid for a slow start as the South African took his only break point of the match in the third game and used his big serve and forehand to keep Norrie at arm’s length.

“I just knuckled down and stayed very calm and ended up executing a little bit better, and he dropped his level a little bit. I was really happy with how I handled it.

A double fault gave Norrie the breakthrough early in the second set and from there he made sure he gave nothing away all the way to the finish line.

Nadal broke Gasquet at the very first time of asking; he used his superior top spin and groundstrokes to send even his French opponent’s best shots back with interest.

After securing the first break with a beautiful backhand passing winner, Nadal went onto take the opener without dropping a game. It took him just 24 minutes.

Gasquet, who last won a set off Nadal back in 2008, found life equally tough going at the start of the second set, before he introduced further variety into his work.

As the Frenchman moved Nadal around the court and came to the net a little more, the result was a remarkable comeback.

He levelled the second set at 5-5 after being 4-1 down before the Spaniard found another gear to hold serve and produce one further break to take the wind out of Gasquet’s sails.

In the third, Nadal continued to be made to work hard for every point, but he remained composed, as he has done so many times before on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The 13-time champion kept his error count to half that of his opponent and despite Gasquet’s determination, the result never looked in danger for Nadal.

“I think that I played an amazing first set,” he said on court afterwards. “A great one and I don’t feel that Richard was playing that badly in the first set to have that score. I didn’t miss balls and I was hitting the [right] spots all of the time.

“Then, the second was a little bit different. I had a set point at 5-2 and I think that I didn’t play a good game with my serve. I suffered against a great player like Richard, but was happy to win that set. After that, I was a little bit more under control.”

Having faced Nadal twice already, Norrie believes that he has learnt a good amount about the man who holds a 102-2 record at Roland Garros.

“I’ve learned that he’s actually a human being,” Norrie said about Nadal.

“He can miss shots. He can play short at times. But then you give him a little bit of room for him to find his forehand, he gets it going. He can be extremely dangerous. It can be absolute carnage going into the forehand there.

“I’ve played him twice in Australia and in Barcelona, so I definitely know how he plays and he knows how I play. But I’m just going to look to bring my game and looking forward to take it to him again.

“I think, especially with my backhand, I can do a lot of damage. I’m not going to give too much away. So just focus on what I’ve been doing well and go and try and execute and leave it all out on the court, and I think just use my legs to my advantage.

“I feel great physically, which is a bonus for me, and I’ll back my legs against anyone, even against Rafa. But I’m going to have to execute, and it’s not going to be easy.”

Ayomide Oyewole

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