Not seeded Cameron Norrie defeated 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in straight sets, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, to advance to his second ATP Tour final in Portugal. The 25 year old British number. 2 is chasing his first career title, having finished second at Auckland International in 2019.
The semi-final match, which lasted just under two hours, epitomized the reason Marin Cilic has only won one Grand Slam in his career. The 32-year-old is a talented player with big guns, but mentally weak and crumbles under the pressure. The 6-foot-6 Croatian has tremendous serve, but he’s always let it down in critical moments. This was well illustrated in the first set where he served 10 aces, but when it really mattered – on the starting point of the tie-break, on his serve – he double-faulted, to give Norrie the first set. .
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Likewise in the second set, after initially resisting intense pressure with a few opportune aces, he finally surrendered, once again on his own serve, with the rest of his game disintegrating behind him, to set the game up to number. 50 worldwide in consecutive sets.
On the other hand, Cameron Norrie stayed strong in key moments, saving 5 of the 6 breakpoints he faced, and overcoming a time violation caused by repeated ball-throwing controls as he struggled to face the tricky coastal wind.
Southpaw Norrie got off to a slow start against the former world No.3, seeded 6 here, being snapped in his first service game, but was quickly sidelined by a double fault from Cilic. The pattern repeated itself in the tie-break when Cilic took a mini-break after a double fault from Norrie, but once again Norrie struggled to get back to the level, playing excellent cross-court on an inclined backhand that dragged his opponent away, a shot he used to do. effect throughout the game. The tie-break then proceeded with the service until Cilic got it wrong with his double fault to make a set down.
Norrie, who struggled with his ball throw throughout the game caused by the swirling breeze, double faulted in Game 3 of the second set, to make it even. Yet another aborted ball throw led to Cilic in normally gentle manners to scream, “ Oh, come on! in frustration, as his preparation for return of service was cut short once again.
Referee Carlos Ramos stepped in and gave Norrie a time violation for putting too much time between first and second serve. Norrie walked over to the chair and maintained that he was allowed to take the time needed between serves, but the referee said it had to be done in a timely manner. Norrie inevitably double faults to give Cilic a breakpoint opportunity.
It was a pivotal moment in the game, and Norrie could easily have cracked and given his opponent the initiative, but he dug deep and remained aggressive. A good first serve and excellent depth with his backhand in the rally gave him the point for two. This was followed by another sloping backhand cross that opened the court for an easy winner, and he maintained his positive attitude in the rally to the next point to complete a firm hold and a 2-1 advantage.
Norrie brought up his own breakpoint in the next game, but Cilic saved him with an ace. Norrie continued to put pressure on Cilic, however, who remained visibly angered by Norrie’s pitching problems, making three unforced errors in frustration to end up down 15-40. He saved the first one with an ace, and called it with a good combination of service winner and forehand, to make it even. A few more later, another unforced error gave Norrie a third breaking point. A smart 198 km / h serve made it a fourth two, and Cilic ultimately saved the longest game of the game with another notable ace.
The ping-pong continued as it was then Norrie’s turn to try and save two breakpoints against him in his next service match. A miss on Cilic’s racket frame and the backhand tilted cross shot came to his rescue, and he too held on with an ace for 4-3.
It looked like the game might be heading for another tie-break, but with Cilic serving second he would have to potentially hold out twice for that to happen. The first time, at 4-5, he held up comfortably. Norrie then kept her own serve at 30, putting pressure on Cilic. On his opening point, a second serve was followed by an unforced forehand error, but he atoned for it on the next point with a first serve and a cross-court forehand winner to make 15 -15.
The repeated pattern: the bad one – a double fault, followed by the good one – an ace. 30-30. But then a first serve was called off by a very bad forehand error into the net from a good position, and it was match point against Norrie. If Cilic ever needed that first serve, it was now, but as you might expect, the serve let him down. Painfully slow serve at 127 km / h was gleefully enjoyed by Norrie, who hit a forehand across the line for a winner. It was a break and a game against Norrie, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, who also offered a sporting apology to Cilic at the net for his problems with throwing the ball.
Norrie has now won 18 touring matches this season, placing him third with Jannik Sinner on the season’s winning list, with Monte-Carlo Masters winner Stefanos Tsitsipas and runner-up Andrey Rublev leading with 26 wins. Norrie will also be looking to double in Estoril, having won the doubles final with compatriot Kyle Edmond in 2018.
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Norrie will play on the 7the plant, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, another left-hander, in Sunday’s final. The clay specialist beat his Spanish compatriot and not. 8 seeds Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. The 33-year-old, who was playing his 21-year-old compatriot for the first time, twice abandoned his service match early in two sets, before recovering to win.
Davidovich Fokina, the 2017 Wimbledon junior champion, is a heavy hitter who can generate power on both wings, but was absent from his game today. He made a series of unsuccessful mistakes in trying, unsuccessfully, to beat the winners on almost every point against his more patient opponent, easily losing the first set 6-1, in less than half an hour.
Although he returned briefly in the second set, breaking Ramos-Vinolas in the fourth game with a more patient approach, continued errors, especially on the forehand, and poor shooting selection, cost him his serve in the seventh. match. Further forehand errors offered two more break points for the older Spaniard, who took full advantage of a weak serve to break and come back 5-4. Davidovich Fokina raged against his racket in anger, hitting it to the ground and breaking it, for which he inevitably received a code violation.
Ramos-Vinolas served easily to win 6-1, 6-4 in 1 hour and 16 minutes, reaching his 10e career final, and he hopes to win his third title on Sunday. He is currently ranked no. 46, but reached a career high of 17 in 2017, helped by a final appearance at the Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo, then beating the then world No.1. 1 Andy Murray in the 3rd round after being 0-4 in the deciding set.
Ramos-Vinolas leads Norrie 2-0 head-to-head, both on clay, so he might be the favorite, although Norrie is the fit player for the final. This fascinating left-handed duel could prove to be close.