Cameron Norrie has stayed under the radar during his eight-month reign as British number one but that is changing at Wimbledon and he will find himself in the full glare of the spotlight if he can reach the semi-finals.
The 26-year-old beat Tommy Paul in straight sets to make his first grand slam quarter-final, where he will take on experienced Belgian David Goffin on Tuesday.
Should Norrie win, he will join Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Roger Taylor as the only British men to reach the semi-finals of the men’s singles at the All England Club in the Open Era.
And he is favoured to do so as the ninth seed and a consistent winner of titles on the ATP Tour over the last two seasons, including at Indian Wells in October – one of the biggest events outside the grand slams.
His low-key profile is a combination of his understated nature, the attention given to the likes of Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray and the fact he had not had a deep run at a slam, having never previously made it past the third round.
Norrie’s tennis is also more solid than spectacular but he makes up for the lack of a big weapon with an exemplary attitude and an almost superhuman capacity for hard work.
Paul, a regular practice partner of Norrie as well as his vanquished opponent, is a big fan of the world number 12, saying: “I think he plays a very smart game of tennis. He knows his game, he knows his strengths.
“He plays into his strengths, which is actually his biggest strength. His mindset, the way he is when he steps on the court.
“He plays the lefty patterns well. You always know how he’s going to play, but he’s good at it. He got top 10 already, and that doesn’t just happen. He earned that, and he played well.”
While Norrie is not used to the sort of attention he is now receiving, he seems totally unfazed by it and called for even more support in his clash with Goffin, which has been overlooked for Centre Court and will instead be played on Court One.
Asked about being a figurehead for the British game, he said: “I’m feeling comfortable doing that, and really enjoying playing at this level, first of all.
“If I can help any of the younger guys, there’s a big group of guys coming through with a lot of talent, a lot of chances to make it inside the top 100. I can be that guy to lead them on and to show they can do it.
“I went to college, I can show them a good path, if you can stay professional and make good decisions. I managed to make the quarters of a slam doing that. I was really pleased with myself.”
Norrie will certainly not be underestimating Goffin, who is a former top-10 player and through to the quarter-finals of a slam for the fourth time – and second at Wimbledon – after battling back from injury problems last year.
Goffin beat Frances Tiafoe in five sets in the third round, and Norrie said: “He’s a very experienced player. He really likes the grass. He’s played a lot of big matches. It’s going to be tough.
“One thing for sure, I know that I’m going to get into a lot of rallies with him. He’s not going to come and serve me off the court, which is good. It’s going to be another physical match, which is great for me. I’m looking forward to competing. It’s going to be another huge challenge.”
Goffin, 31, missed Wimbledon last year because of an ankle injury and was then out for several months with a knee problem.
Now ranked 58, the Belgian said: “It means a lot. For me, it’s almost like a back-to-back quarter-finals because I didn’t play last year and 2020 was closed with Covid. The last time I played before this year was the quarter-final against Novak (Djokovic) on Centre Court.
“I was very excited to come back here because it’s a very important tournament for me. It’s probably my favourite tournament of the year, a place that I love, surface that I can play really well.
“At the beginning of the year I had to fight and stay positive to come back to my best level. The last few weeks or last few months was much better.”