Every great British love story at Wimbledon begins with a five-set classic.
For Tim Henman it involved saving two match points on the way to beating reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Andy Murray battled back from two sets down to overcome both the fading daylight and Richard Gasquet.
From that point onwards, the British crowds were smitten – Henman Hill and Murray Mound were coined.
Now Cameron Norrie has his own epic five-set victory, time for Norrie Knoll? Maybe not as the newly-minted Wimbledon semi-finalist admits he has never even heard of the word.
Whatever the nomenclature of SW19’s most famous geographical feature, Norrie captured the imagination in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
He has a reputation as a player who has squeezed every drop out of his potential and against Belgium’s David Goffin, he stood tallest in the big moments to come from behind and win 3-6 7-5 2-6 6-3 7-5 in just under three and a half hours.
Unlike Henman and Murray, Norrie’s progress has been something of a slow burn. It has taken until the age of 26 for him to reach a first Grand Slam quarter, and now semi-final.
All that stands in his way is the small matter of Novak Djokovic, a man who has not lost a match here since 2017. To put that into context, that was the year that Norrie made his debut at SW19, needing a wildcard to do so and winning just seven games before crashing out in the first round.
Since then, Norrie has built his game around his mental and physical strength. He backs himself to get better the longer a match goes on. That aspect of his game will face its biggest test against Djokovic, arguably the greatest of them all in deciding sets at Slams, the latest example being his quarter-final win over Jannik Sinner in which he came from two sets down to win.
Norrie was soundly beaten in their only previous meeting – at last year’s World Tour Finals in Turin – but remains confident that he can trouble Djokovic.
Asked if he believes he can beat the defending champion, Norrie answered: “For sure. I think it’s obviously one of the toughest tasks in tennis. I’d say grass is his favourite surface and his record is unbelievable here at Wimbledon. It’s going to be tough.
“I’m going to have to improve a lot of things from today. I don’t think I’m going to have the chance to lose focus like I did today. I think I was a little bit fortunate. I, a couple of times, lost a little bit of focus and managed to get it back. I think with him, there is no room for that.”
Norrie is unquestionably right that he will have to raise his level. Against Goffin, he took a set and a half to settle. Appearing in his fourth Grand Slam quarter-final, the former world number seven looked to be playing with Norrie, easing through the first set and breaking midway through the second.
When the Brit broke back and went on to level the match, the momentum looked to have shifted, only for a sloppy service game, followed by another, saw Goffin race into a 4-0 lead and eventually take the third set.
It was then that the laser focus took over. The unforced errors that had littered his game to that point dried up and a crucial challenge on a Goffin ace allowed Norrie to earn the decisive break to take it to a decider.
It would be revisionist history to say there was only going to be one winner from that point. Both men faced challenges on their serve, but in the end, Norrie proved the stronger.
As the decibels picked up and the roars got louder, Norrie raised his game.
There is still a long way to go to match the exploits of Henman – who was watching on alongside the royals on No.1 Court – and certainly Murray.
The Scot is part of the select crew to have beaten Djokovic here and may well provide the key to Norrie doing the same.
Norrie added: “Andy has been super supportive to me and my team. You know, I’m always practising with him and always reaching out to him for ideas. He’s super supportive with us.
“Even before the match today, he came over and he was in the gym and came and said, ‘good luck’.
“I think (he’s) not a bad guy to ask about some tactics. I’m going to enjoy today and maybe reach out to him and see what he’s got.”
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