Australian Open 2021: For some, dealing with a Grand Slam legend means a dream come true. And a lopsided defeat

Australian Open 2021: For some, dealing with a Grand Slam legend means a dream come true. And a lopsided defeat

It’s a tough steadiness when somebody of Cameron Norrie’s ilk — ranked 69th and, till this week, the proprietor of a grand complete of six wins in Grand Slam matches — goes up towards somebody of Rafa Nadal’s stature on one in every of their sport’s greatest phases.

Australian Open 2021: For some, facing a Grand Slam legend means a dream come true. And a lopsided defeat

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

Forward of his match towards Rafael Nadal on the Australian Open, Cameron Norrie hit what appeared like the entire proper notes, the types of sentiments that specific a wholesome mix of respect and confidence.

A bit intimidated, however not too intimidated. A bit in awe, however not too in awe.

It’s a tough steadiness when somebody of Norrie’s ilk — ranked 69th and, till this week, the proprietor of a grand complete of six wins in Grand Slam matches — goes up towards somebody of Nadal’s stature on one in every of their sport’s greatest phases. Dealing with an ideal — any member of the Large Three, say, or Serena Williams — at a serious event affords loads of alternative, after all: a second within the highlight; an encounter with an idol; a option to measure your self towards the most effective; an opportunity for a career-altering consequence.

Or, greater than possible, a lopsided loss. And to some, that’s OK.

Norrie, a 25-year-old left-hander who went to Texas Christian College and represents Britain, spoke earlier than taking over Nadal at Rod Laver Enviornment in regards to the prospect of “an unbelievable expertise.” About needing “to go after it and luxuriate in each minute” of Saturday’s third-round encounter.

He acknowledged Nadal is “a legend” in a single breath, and within the subsequent known as the 2009 champion at Melbourne Park “simply one other participant ” and vowed to “present him what I’ve obtained.” In the long run, to nobody’s shock, it was Nadal who confirmed what he is obtained, successful 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 to maneuver a step nearer to his males’s-record twenty first Grand Slam title whereas stopping Norrie from getting anyplace close to his first.

“All the time going to be good,” Norrie mentioned afterward, “to play an enormous canine like Rafa.”

The scoreline was barely tighter than Nadal’s earlier win: 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 towards Michael Mmoh, a 23-year-old from Florida ranked 177th. Mmoh known as Nadal “any person I’ve been anticipating years and years — since I used to be, like, just a little child, virtually.”

That sort of match is “positively what we dream of,” Mmoh mentioned. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Casper Ruud, a 22-year-old from Norway who reached the spherical of 16 at a serious for the primary time on  Saturday, recalled making his third-round debut towards Roger Federer on the 2019 French Open.

“That’s a tricky third-round opponent, the best of all of them,” Ruud mentioned. “So then you definitely sort of assume extra about simply the expertise — being within the third spherical — than possibly interested by truly successful the match.”

Gamers say every such outing towards that calibre of foe makes the following one much less daunting. There’s a distinction between going right into a match figuring there’s zero shot at a victory and having some semblance of self-belief.

Anastasia Potapova, a Russian teenager who received a Wimbledon junior title in 2016, misplaced to Williams 6-0, 6-3 a yr in the past within the Australian Open’s first spherical. The rematch got here on Friday within the third spherical, and Potapova made issues way more attention-grabbing, even twice coming inside some extent of taking the primary set in what turned a 7-6(5), 6-2 defeat.

“I didn’t really feel like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m enjoying Serena.’ No, I had been there already,” Potapova mentioned. “I felt extra, I might say, relaxed in my head.”

When the attracts come out at a serious, some gamers research them. Most, it appears, attempt to keep away from realizing any greater than the identify of their subsequent foe.

Blame superstition, maybe. Or a need to, because the cliché has it, give attention to one match at a time.

Inevitably, although, if an early assembly with a famous person is within the offing, it’s arduous to disregard.

Nina Stojanovic, a 24-year-old from Serbia ranked 99th, arrived in Melbourne by no means having received a Slam match. So there was no method she was going to look previous the primary spherical.

“Then my coach requested me: ‘Should you win, you recognize who you’re enjoying within the second spherical?’ And I mentioned, ‘Who?’ And he mentioned, ‘Serena.’ And I used to be like, ‘What?! Actually?! Really?!’” Stojanovic mentioned in a video interview with The Related Press. “For me, all these years training tennis, it was my want to play towards Serena. I like her recreation. I love her recreation.”

So what if the ultimate rating wound up 6-3, 6-0 in favor of the 23-time Grand Slam champ?

“I actually loved it,” Stojanovic mentioned, smiling about her afternoon. “Even when I misplaced.”

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