Cameron Norrie’s college coach has described the sacrifices the British number one made to become a professional tennis player after a “crossroad moment” when he crashed a moped after drinking.
Norrie-mania has reached fever-pitch among tennis fans after the 26-year-old won the quarter-final against David Goffin, propelling him into Friday’s semi-final against top seed Novak Djokovic.
But the 26-year-old recently revealed that he had “wake-up call” when he crashed his moped in the second year of college at Texan Christian University, (TCU) after having “one too many”.
Norrie said he had to get six stitches on his chin and missed out on a professional opportunity, adding that it was a “turning moment” and that he “really kicked me into gear”.
David Robiti, who was one of his coaches alongside Devin Bowen for “The Horned Frogs” tennis team at TCU, told the PA news agency that they had to sit him down and tell him to change his behaviour if he wanted to be a professional player.
Mr Robiti said: “He missed the opportunity to play a local challenger which at the time was a big opportunity from him because he got into an accident.
“What he learned from it was that he missed a big opportunity because of something that happened off court.”
Mr Robiti also said he also missed a morning practice when his parents were visiting around that time.
He added: “We were very disappointed that we were all here at 7am and he wasn’t.
“It was very rare and it only happened once but we let him know that … we felt he was at a crossroads and how serious did he want to be.
“And credit to him, he decided he wanted to be a professional from that moment and his choices were very good.
“All the success that he is having is due to his work and his decision making.”
Mr Robiti explained that to play like the greats – Nadal, Federer, Murray – players have to make “abnormal” sacrifices.
He said: “It takes a lot of sacrifice, a lot of abnormal behaviour to get to the level where all these players are. He’s done that”.
The TCU coach went on to say that Norrie is “capable of going as high as possible”.
Asked if the college coaches ever expected Norrie to reach the finals, he said: “I would have never said he couldn’t do it but it’s hard to predict that because it’s so elite and it’s so hard.
“So many things have to happen and go your way – health and continued development so it’s hard but there is nothing he could possibly accomplish that Devin and I wouldn’t be – that wouldn’t surprise us.
“He is capable of going as high as possible. He loves to surprise people that way. He loves to show you.
“As soon as you tell him he can’t do something, he’s going to prove you wrong. He draws energy from that, he feeds off that.”
On what Norrie was like at TCU, Mr Robiti, who is still the head men’s tennis coach, said: “He always stood out form everybody.
“We knew right away he wasn’t your typical 18-year-old coming into college.”
He said Norrie was “ultra competitive”, “really hard working” and “wouldn’t want to lose one little game at all to his teammates at practice.”
“We’d almost want to ask him, can you not kill them this practice, can you give them a little confidence – impossible, no chance,” Mr Robiti joked.
“He had great friends on the team, he was social, he was a leader by example in the way that he put a lot of work into his tennis, he never missed a private session with the coaches,” he said.
Mr Robiti also said that Norrie came to TCU because he “wated to experience the college world” and “wasn’t ready to be a full professional”.
“From day one he had great results, every year he would get better and better,” he said.
“He was ready to go to the next level and just needed three years to get his mind ready to be a professional tennis player.”
Mr Robiti said that watch the match with the TCU tennis “campers” in his office was “exciting”.
“I’m very proud – very proud. Happy,” he added.
“It’s a great example for the rest, he’s a great role model.”
He joked: “I have never seen Cameron cry, that was a first – You don’t get to see that very often.”
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