Cameron Norrie was spurred on by an enthusiastic home crowd as he followed Heather Watson by breaking new ground and reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon.
This was the sixth time in the last nine grand slams that the British number one had made it to the last 32 but – not helped by coming up against the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – he had never gone further.
He changed that in emphatic fashion against Steve Johnson, though, outclassing the American 6-4 6-1 6-0 in just an hour and 49 minutes for his first Centre Court victory.
Midway through the second set, a bold fan decided to begin a chant of ‘Norrie, Norrie, Norrie, Oi, Oi, Oi’, which soon caught on – and was met with approval by its subject.
“It was pretty funny,” said Norrie. “Every time they said it, I broke serve. It’s a good sign. I’m a little bit superstitious. I really enjoyed the match thoroughly. It definitely added to the noise of the match and atmosphere out there on Centre Court.
“I think it was maybe the first time this tournament at change of ends, I was just in the moment, sitting there enjoying it, just thinking in the present, a little bit more at peace. In the other matches I was a bit thinking what I’m doing next, thinking about the situation too much.
“Today I was very, very relaxed. (It was) maybe one of the bigger matches in my career obviously to make the second week for the first time. I had a great opportunity today and I managed to play the level that I wanted to.”
Norrie, seeded ninth, is the highest-ranked player in his quarter but he had to battle from two sets to one down to beat Spain’s Jaume Munar in the previous round.
He was a heavy favourite against world number 93 Johnson, but the big-serving 32-year-old is at his best on grass and reached the fourth round here six years ago.
Norrie probed throughout a tight first set, seeing five break points come and go before a backhand dinked neatly out of Johnson’s reach on the sixth opportunity gave it to him.
The 26-year-old had made a few uncharacteristic unforced errors on what was a huge occasion for him but winning the opening set settled him down and he was relentless in the second.
Johnson simply could not match the consistency and athleticism of Norrie, who hustled around the court retrieving almost everything, and by the beginning of the third he was looking thoroughly worn down.
Norrie credited experience and practice sessions with Dan Evans for helping him, saying: “Obviously losing four or five times already in the third round, having some tougher draws, I was able to learn from that experience.
“Honestly, I wasn’t too nervous out there today. Before I would have signed for that, playing Stevie Johnson in the third round. I think the match-up was good. I’m quite used to playing those kind of game styles.
“It can be difficult at times and make you uncomfortable, but I think I need to give credit to Evo, playing with him a lot, practising with him a lot.
“I think it’s allowed me to be a little bit more comfortable when he’s knifing that slice really low, looking for that forehand. I was able to execute really, really well in the second and third set.”
Only Andy Murray among active British men had ever reached the last 16 in singles at Wimbledon but Norrie raced towards his target to set up a clash with another American, Tommy Paul, on Sunday.
Paul, 25, has had a strong grass-court season, reaching the quarter-finals at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne, but Norrie will fancy his chances of keeping home interest going well into the second week.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe