Australian Open: Cameron Norrie ready for ‘unbelievable experience’ against Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal turned to YouTube to learn more about second-round opponent Michael Mmoh, and while Cameron Norrie is no stranger to the Spaniard’s talent he may well be dropping Andy Murray a text as he prepares for their Australian Open third-round clash.

It will mark the first time Norrie has faced the 20-time Grand Slam champion after he came from a set behind to beat Russian Roman Safiullin 3-6 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7-3) on Thursday. Nadal, who won the tournament back in 2009, meanwhile coasted to a 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory over American qualifier Mmoh.

While full of admiration for one of tennis’ greats, Britain’s Norrie has vowed to play the man as opposed to the reputation when he looks to halt Nadal’s pursuit of a record 21st major title.

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“It’s going to be an unbelievable experience,” said Norrie. “I think I just have to go after it and, yeah, enjoy every minute against him. He’s such a legend of the game, but on Saturday night, just another player. He’s a human being.

“Just go out there and give it to him and see what happens. Try to enjoy it as much as I can and show him what I got.”

The contest will see Norrie come up against one of the ‘Big Three’ for the first time in his career, a challenge he is embracing as he looks to rise up the ranks.

Former world No 1 Murray has played Nadal 24 times and beaten him on seven occasions so far in his career, most recently at the Madrid Masters when they last met back in 2016.

“Yeah, I mean, that would definitely be a good thing to do [ask Murray for some advice],” said Norrie. “I have watched Rafa so much over the years. I’m gonna leave that up to my coach and just he’ll get a good plan together. Maybe message Andy and see what his thoughts are.

“We play obviously pretty different, me being lefty, but, yeah, he’s definitely got some good tips in there. And I think he’s obviously not really got many weaknesses, so I’m just gonna have to do what I do as well as I can and implement my game and try to play the points on my terms.

“Otherwise if he’s the one dictating, it’s gonna be tough and I’m gonna be running around a lot. It’s not gonna be easy.”

Nadal’s ability to maintain such high-performance levels at the age of 34 and on the back of numerous injury setbacks has been testament to his resiliency both on and off the court.

His technical attributes aside, the world No 2’s mental approach to the game is a weapon to be admired for Norrie.

“Regardless of the match or regardless of the situation, even if he’s a huge favourite he’s always going to make sure and take care of his opponents,” said Norrie. “I think he’s just an unbelievable competitor. I think he’ll be successful in anything he does.

“Obviously very talented tennis player, too. But, yeah, I think his general mindset and his competitiveness is, I mean, probably the best in the world.”

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#AusOpen Schedule: RLA – Saturday 13 February

Norrie enters the matchup playing some good tennis himself having overcome in-form Dan Evans in four sets in the opening round before recovering from a slow start to see off Safiullin following a two-hour rain delay.

“Well, he won two good matches,” said Nadal. “Winning against Evans, honestly I don’t know his opponent tonight, I don’t know him, but I know how good is Evans.

“He came to the tournament winning the week before, so Norrie was able to beat him. Lefty. Good player. He has experience on the tour already. Gonna be the toughest test, without a doubt. I need to be playing at high level if I want to keep having chances to be through. And I am looking forward to try to make that happen.”

Though Norrie’s underdog status presents the opportunity as something of a free hit, Nadal is under no illusions as to the danger of taking the 25-year-old for granted. Not to say that complacency has ever been a trait associated with the perennial champion.

“That’s a philosophy, nothing to lose,” he said. “But at the same time, he has a match to lose or to win, the same like me. I mean, we are in the third round of Grand Slam. I cannot expect an easy opponent in front. Norrie will not be an easy opponent. So I know he has a great level of tennis, and I gonna try to be ready for the challenge.

“Gonna be a good test for me, and at the same time I need to play tough matches to be ready and to be tested. Against Norrie will be one of these ones.”

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