Cameron Norrie’s shock win at the prestigious Indian Wells Open this week means “these really are halcyon days for British tennis”, says Stuart Fraser in The Times. Five weeks after Emma Raducanu’s US Open win , Britain’s new men’s No 1 beat “big-hitting” Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Even Andy Murray has never won Indian Wells, which is widely considered “the fifth grand slam”. Norrie, 26, started the year ranked 74th in the world – he’s now 16th. “Relentless physicality” and a big heart are his biggest weapons, says Simon Briggs in The Daily Telegraph. His coach, Facundo Lugones, told reporters Norrie’s heart can sustain intense activity for periods “that would kill the average human”.
Norrie’s Welsh mother, Helen, was a long-distance runner; his Scottish dad, David, was the top-ranked squash player at British universities. They raised him in New Zealand, running every day. He retreated to their Auckland home during lockdown, building his “impossible” stamina on hilly daily runs.
Dan Evans, the man Norrie has replaced as British No 1, “is a prettier player to watch”. But “perpetual motion machine” Norrie resembles Bjorn Borg, the 1970s legend whose resting heart rate was once measured at an almost catatonic 35 beats per minute. Norrie is “an animal”, says Lugones. “He can endure anything.”
A volley good show
Eight million fans watched the “thrilling” inaugural Balloon World Cup this month, says Gregg Bakowski in The Guardian. Most watched online, but a capacity Spanish crowd roared as Peru’s Francesco de la Cruz and Germany’s Jan Spiess tried to keep a children’s party balloon in the air during last weekend’s final – with €10,000 up for grabs. Thirty-two national teams took part. Men competed with women. The UK, typically, fell at the first hurdle. Peru won. It was “much like squash”, but more “epic”.
The Balloon World Cup owes its existence to lockdown “cabin fever”. Some juggled toilet rolls or ran marathons on balconies; others leaped around living rooms with a party balloon. TikTok videos of the latter became so popular that the entrepreneurial Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique suggested a knockout tournament in Spain. (He also revamped tennis’s Davis Cup.) Spanish commentators fell about in hysterics as players hit drop shots behind obstacle sofas, tables and an incongruous sponsored car parked in a glass-encased living room. Everyone got their money’s worth. “Some World Cups are worth having more often.”
Not slippery when wet
🏏 💦 England’s T20 World Cup cricketers have found a nifty way to prepare for humid desert conditions in the UAE, says the BBC – “dunking balls in water”. A dewy outfield in evening games will spell trouble for bowlers and fielders trying to get a grip on the slippery ball. Practising with wet balls should help. England’s goalkeepers could try this at the World Cup in Qatar next year – but they’d probably need a bigger bucket.