Cameron Norrie ended a five-year wait for a British man in the fourth round of Wimbledon as he swept past Steve Johnson for the loss of just five games: 6-4, 6-1, 6-0. As John McEnroe put it, “It doesn’t get any easier than that.”
Norrie also became the second Briton of the day to smash a personal glass ceiling, emulating Heather Watson by reaching the last 16 of a major for the first time. But the broader statistic was the more remarkable, demonstrating how large a talent gap Andy Murray left when his hip blew up in the 2017 quarter-final against Sam Querrey.
Wimbledon is twice the event when there are Britons in the second week. And this year the tournament needed that injection of nationalism even more than usual, with Roger Federer absent through injury and multiple contenders eliminated by either Covid or the complex ramifications of war in Ukraine.
Norrie and Watson have gone to a stage where only Emma Raducanu reached last year, thus emulating the 2017 joint efforts of Murray and Johanna Konta.
Were either Katie Boulter or Liam Broady to join them on Saturday, then we would be looking at a genuinely rare feat of three home players in the last 16, not matched since Virginia Wade, Debbie Jevans and Mark Cox all went that far in 1979. Were both Boulter and Broady to win, that would make it the best return since the strike year of 1973, when virtually no international players travelled to Wimbledon because of an industrial dispute involving Yugoslavia’s Niki Pilic.
Admittedly, this was a dream match-up for Norrie, against a characteristic type of American player who deploys a massive serve and forehand yet has no backhand to speak of.
For a left-hander like Norrie, Johnson is exactly the sort of opponent you dream of. As a sort of cut-price Rafael Nadal, Norrie likes to whip heavy top-spin forehands into his opponent’s weaker flank, just as his role model made a name from bombarding the Federer backhand.
There was no escape for Johnson from this frustrating pattern of play. As he chipped backhand after backhand, he must have felt like a lead guitarist who was being asked to play drums, despite the fact that he had barely picked up a pair of sticks in his life. His primary skills were going unrewarded.
With his long face and scrubby beard, Johnson has a hangdog look at the best of times – and these were anything but the best of times as Norrie picked him apart ruthlessly. There was no chink in Norrie’s armour, as he scuttled left and right like the speedy fell-runner he is. The upshot was a huge differential in the unforced-error column: 43 for Johnson, and only 14 for Norrie.
Looking at the way Norrie was striking the ball, the question may not be “How did he finally reach the second week of a major?” but “Why did it take him so long?”
We are talking the 10th seed here – yet before this tournament Norrie’s record at the grand slams stood at a very moderate 14 wins and 18 defeats. Neither can we easily attribute his multiple disappointments to nervousness on the big occasion, because he won Indian Wells – the tournament often described as “the fifth major” – only last October.
The point, perhaps, is that we are witnessing Norrie’s personal growth. There was perhaps a scintilla of imposter syndrome at the back of his mind throughout the first five years of his professional career, stemming from the fact that he went down the American college route in his late teens rather than heading straight out onto the tour.
He has since acknowledged that he needed time to grow up as a person, and he certainly sounded confident yesterday as he took the applause on Centre Court. When the on-court interviewer Rishi Persad asked him what lay behind his rapid climb up the rankings since last year’s Wimbledon – which carried him from No34 to No12 – one wag in the crowd earned a laugh by shouting out “Weetabix!”
Once the chuckles had died down, Norrie offered a more grounded diagnosis. “It feels really good to reach the second week of a slam,” he said, “especially with all my friends and family watching me so definitely good timing.” His Welsh mother and Scottish father had made the long trip over from New Zealand, the country of his birth, and were seeing him play on Centre Court for the first time.
“I’m really enjoying playing at this level, enjoying the process of it all, and enjoying improving. It's been a lot of fun with my coach Facu [Facundo Lugones, an old friend from Texas Christian University]. We have all got the same goals and we're all pushing each other hard. So it's been a lot of fun, but I want to keep going and want to keep ticking more boxes.”
Asked if he was ready for his next match against another American, Tommy Paul, Norrie replied “I'm as ready as I can be. I’m training as hard as I can. It’s been a tricky grass season, but I’ve peaked at the right time and I’m definitely moving better and feeling a lot better on the court. So I'll take that and I'm as ready as I can be.”
Norrie eases into fourth round, as it happened
Can Norrie go deep?
No reason why Norrie can't reach the semi-finals the way he is playing. He looks at home on the grass and is a threat to anyone!
It feels really good, especially here at Wimbledon, at home. First time in the second week of a Grand Slam and I couldn't be happier especially with all my friends and family watching me. It's good timing that they're here! I enjoyed that match today and it was a bit less stressful than the last round for my squad.
I'm enjoying playing at this level, the process and enjoying improving with my coach and my team. We all have the same goals and we're all pushing each other - it's been a lot of fun and I want to keep going and keep ticking all boxes.
British tennis on the up?
If Katie Boulter or Liam Broady can back up Heather Watson and Norrie's win, there will be more than two British players in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time since 1979.
Norrie 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
The scoreboard on Centre Court is not working but it is 30-0. An ace makes it 40-0.
GAME SET MATCH NORRIE. Deep Norrie forehand, Johnson keeps the rally alive but the British No 1 finishes his man off with an easy forehand.
Norrie* 6-4, 6-1, 5-0 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Norrie winner up the line, 0-15. Johnson forehand winner, 15-15. Groans as Johnson double faults, 30-40. Break point. Then cheers as he hits an ace, deuce.
Great hustle by Norrie to chase down what seemed like a lost cause but he gets the ball back over and Johnson nets the backhand.
Johnson double fault again and Norrie is a game away from the fourth round.
Norrie 6-4, 6-1, 4-0 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Another love hold for Norrie.
Norrie* 6-4, 6-1, 3-0 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Another break point for Norrie as Johnson volley clips the net and sits up nicely for Norrie to whip a forehand winner on the run.
Another volley into the net by Johnson and Norrie gets the double break. This match is done!
Norrie 6-4, 6-1, 2-0 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Johnson looks like a beaten man as Norrie holds to love easily. This has been very impressive by Norrie.
Grass isn't his favourite surface but you wouldn't know it from this display.
Third Set: Norrie* 6-4, 6-1, 1-0 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Johnson finds himself in more trouble on his serve but manages to save the break point.
Standing ovation for Norrie as he does incredible to chase back a lob over his head, flick the ball back into play and Johnson nets a backhand.
Another Johnson error gives Norrie break point, Norrie gets a look at a second serve but his forehand return is into the tramlines.
Johnson skies a backhand well long, break point. Good response from Johnson as he hits an ace.
Great retrieving skills by Norrie and Johnson goes for too much with his forehand, break point. Norrie forehand return long,
Norrie backhand winner down the line, fifth break point. Johnson goes on the attack and his forehand into the corner is called in. Norrie challenges and Hawkeye says it was out. Norrie finally gets the break.
Norrie 6-4, 6-1 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Serving for the set, Norrie races to 40-15. Two set points.
He wastes the first, flicking a backhand long. But not the second as Johnson puts a return long and Norrie claims the set in convincing fashion.
Norrie* 6-4, 5-1 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Norrie cross court forehand winner on the run, three break points.
Johnson saves the first with a blistering forehand winner. And another. Norrie forehand return into net. Norrie played those points very badly.
Another Johnson error, fourth break point for Norrie. Boooom! Norrie steps in and rifles a forehand return winner down the line. Double break secured.
Norrie 6-4, 4-1 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Ideal start by Johnson as he flicks what is becoming a trademark backhand winner past Norrie. Norrie then nets a backhand, 15-30.
Norrie gets a short Johnson return but he nets a forehand, break point. Better forehands from Norrie and he's rewarded when Johnson nets.
And Norrie keeps the break when Johnson nets another backhand.
Norrie* 6-4, 3-1 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Johnson stops the bleeding by holding to 30. But he is up against it at the moment and Norrie is stamping his quality on the match.
Norrie 6-4, 3-0 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Perfect service game by Norrie as he holds to love to consolidate the break.
Great tennis by the British No 1.
Norrie* 6-4, 2-0 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Johnson double fault, 30-30. Followed by an ace, 40-30. Second double fault of the game, deuce.
Johnson shanks a forehand, break point Norrie. Norrie forehand drops into the tramlines, bad miss. Deuce.
A very tight looking forehand into the net by Johnson, second break point. Sliced approach by Norrie, Johnson flicks backhand up the line, Norrie backhand volley and Johnson just can't get the ball over the net.
Big game to break by Norrie.
Second Set: Norrie 6-4, 1-0 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Gasps from the crowd as Johnson looks all but beaten but he comes up with a ridiculous backhand pass on the run, 30-30. Lovely inside out forehand by Johnson, deuce.
Norrie nets a forehand, break point Johnson. Big chance for Johnson after he hits a great forehand down the line, Norrie gets the ball over the net and Johnson nets, deuce.
Johnson forehand winner up the line, second break point. Johnson return error. Those misses are proving costly.
Norrie escapes with an ace.
Norrie* 6-4 Johnson (*denotes next server)
A swing and a miss by Norrie as a Johnson serve zips past him, 15-15. A lob by Johnson drifts long, 15-30.
Great backhand pass by Norrie which Johnson gets back over the net but it leaves an easy ball for Norrie to put away. Two set points.
Johnson saves the first when Norrie nets a backhand. Superb rally by the two men, Johnson hits a delicate drop shot but Norrie reaches it and lifts a backhand past his man for a winner. Brilliant way to end the set.
Norrie 5-4 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Forehand by Norrie into the net and it is 0-30. The crowd ups the noise level as Norrie gets back on track with to first serves which are unreturned.
And Norries escapes that tricky spot when Johnson nets. Johnson will have to hold to stay in the set.
Norrie* 4-4 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Another Johnson service game where Norrie gets a look at breaking his man. Johnson double faults to make it deuce.
Groans from the crowd as Norrie misjudges a return and Johnson holds with an ace.
Norrie 4-3 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Wild backhand by Norrie, 15-30. Good response by Norrie to reach 40-30 with a forehand winner but he then nets a backhand, deuce.
Back-to-back returns go long from Johnson and Norrie holds.
Norrie* 3-3 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Deep Norrie forehand and Johnson shanks a forehand off his own out of the court, 0-30. Johnson hits back with an ace, 15-30. Norrie gets Johnson on the run again and the American nets.
Johnson saves the first when Norrie's forehand just misses the line, 30-40. Johnson takes charge of the rally with his forehand and Norrie's defensive backhand is long, deuce.
An ace to hold from Johnson. Great recovery.
Norrie 3-2 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Norrie nets a backhand on the stretch, 30-30. But he holds again to keep his lead in the set.
Very little to separate the two players in the early stages.
Norrie* 2-2 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Norrie makes his move on the Johnson serve, moving to 15-40. Norrie squanders the first and the second when he puts a forehand return long, deuce.
Good serving at a vital time for Johnson and an ace to win the game completes a very good recovery.
Norrie 2-1 Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Norrie whips a lovely forehand winner up the line, 30-0. Johnson backhand clips the net and drops on Norrie's side of the net.
Another thing that's dropping is a few rain drops. It does look gloomy overhead.
Johnson backhand winner off Norrie's second serve, 40-30. Norrie holds when Johnson nets a return.
Norrie* 1-1 Johnson (*denotes next server)
Norrie goes for too much on the forehand as it drops wide, 40-0. But he keeps himself in the game with a volley winner.
However Johnson does get himself on the scoreboard early when Norrie nets.
First Set: Cameron Norrie 1-0 Steve Johnson* (*denotes next server)
Nice long rally to open the match and Norrie wins it when Johnson nets, 15-0. And he holds to 15 when Johnson nets a forehand approach shot.
It's a bit windy on Centre and the temperature is starting to drop. It hasn't been a hot Wimbledon Championships.
Here we go!
Norrie and Johnson stride out from under the Royal Box for their match. This could be quite entertaining.
Johnson has already taken out on Brit at Wimbledon...
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of Cameron Norrie's third-round match at Wimbledon, against Steve Johnson.
With Heather Watson beating Kaja Juvan 7-6(6), 6-2 earlier in the day to reach the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time in her career, Norrie now has the chance to match her achievement.
Norrie is within touching distance of the same milestone, having previously reached the third round of all four majors without progressing further. The British No 1 will take on Johnson on Centre Court, his first meeting with the American.
Johnson reached the fourth round at Wimbledon back in 2016, losing in straight sets to Roger Federer, his best performance at a major to date. Now 32, he is an experienced but eminently beatable opponent.
With Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray exiting the tournament early, Norrie now carries a greater weight of expectation on his shoulders. The raucous Centre Court crowd will be fully behind him even if, as the home favourite, he will also have to deal with the resultant pressure.
Norrie impressed in the first and second rounds, beating Pablo Andujar in straight sets before grinding out a more difficult five-set victory against Jaume Munar. Johnson, meanwhile, started with a walkover against Grigor Dimitrov before a straight-sets win against another British hopeful in Ryan Peniston.
Speaking ahead of this evening's match, Norrie projected an air of confidence. "I've been saying it all of this year, I wanted to make the second week for the first time at a [Grand] Slam," he said.
"I don't see why not. I'm feeling a bit more comfortable, moving a lot better.
"I'm playing one of my favourite tournaments, if not my favourite tournament of the year. It's another opportunity to embrace the pressure, embrace the challenge of trying to make the second week."
Asked whether he could be a dark horse to win the tournament, Norrie was similarly bullish. " It will be a big shock to me, but I'm still in the tournament, I'm still going," he said.
"I'm not really focusing on that, but I'm feeling good and looking forward to the next one. I'm in it to win it.
"I've now got another opportunity to play a third-round match here at Wimbledon. I've still got a lot of things I would like to work on and improve, but I feel like my level is improving."