At the backend of last year, all the talk was that Rafael Nadal might have to call time on his glittering career at the top of tennis due to a foot injury. But, fast forward a couple of months, and the Spaniard has won three tournaments from three, adding the Mexican Open to his list of recent achievements.
His opponent in the Mexican Open final was Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who entered the tournament as the world number twelve. Norrie, 26, had won his previous eight matches, winning the Delray Beach open in preparation for this event. So he certainly came into the tie full of exuberance.
The first set was close, but it was Nadal who took control, converting a break point in the fifth and then seeing out the remainder with his serve. The second set saw Norrie find the breakthrough, levelling matters at 1-1 before Nadal eased into the distance with four straight games. An excellent volley from the world number four then brought about two championship points, with Nadal not needing a second bite at the cherry to record a 6-4 6-4 victory, claiming the Mexican Open trophy in the process.
Success in Acapulco, something Nadal achieved without dropping a set, and after beating new world number one, Danil Medvedev is the 91st career title the Spaniard has earned. And it’s the fourth time he has left Mexico as the champion. The first time Nadal won the Mexican Open was in 2013, which means he’s now the youngest and the oldest ever to take home the crown.
Even at thirty-five, and with the threat of retirement having reared its head recently, Nadal continues to impress. His victory over Norrie means that this is the best start to a season he’s ever had, with fifteen wins in the bag already. And, in this form, you wouldn’t bet against the Olympic gold medallist beating anyone in his path for the foreseeable.
The man on the other side of the court, Norrie, is very much enjoying an exciting journey of his own. In the last twelve months, he’s gone from being ranked outside of the world’s top sixty in the men’s singles to being on the verge of entering the top ten. It’s a remarkable rise, and facing off against Nadal in Mexico after winning his previous eight, is testament to how good a player he is.
Norrie, who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, originally, turned pro in 2017. And since July last year, he’s won three out of five ATP ranking finals – Los Cabos Open, Indian Wells Masters and Delray Beach. So it’s some going for the Brit, who has represented the nation since switching allegiances from New Zealand in 2013.
While it will be interesting to see just what Nadal can muster up between now and the end of the season and whether he can continue in this rich vein of form, Norrie is undoubtedly one to watch, especially if you’re British.