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Cam Norrie wins an “opportunity championship”

This October Indian Wells tournament offered the promise of something different. Oh, how different it turned out to be.

Cam Norrie joined Nikoloz Basilashvili in the men’s final, with Grigor Dimitrov and Taylor Fritz reaching the semifinals. The men’s final was No. 21 versus No. 29, after the women’s final between Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka matched the No. 21 and No. 27 seeds. Norrie’s championship, won over Basilashvili in three sets Sunday night, meant that the No. 21 seeds captured both singles championships in Southern California.

Yet, whereas Paula Badosa’s title run elicits questions about what she is capable of — especially at the upcoming Australian Open in January — Norrie’s championship should simply be viewed as an “opportunity championship.”

An alternate label for Norrie’s title: a Yogi Berra championship.

Yogi Berra, one of the most famous baseball players of all time and an American sports icon, once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Humor and double-meanings aside, the quote elicits a simple truth: Take something when life gives it to you. When life presents an opportunity, take it.

That’s what Cam Norrie did in Indian Wells.

Daniil Medvedev didn’t take this opportunity. Neither did Stefanos Tsitsipas nor Alexander Zverev did. Grigor Dimitrov had a great week and a half in the desert, but he couldn’t climb the final few mountains. Only Cam Norrie fully seized the day amid the palm trees and arid conditions of this out-of-the-way place in California.

When you think about it, every tennis match is a fork in the road, a journey with two fundamental destinations, victory or defeat. Cam Norrie kept arriving at these forks… and he kept taking them.

What does this mean for Norrie’s 2022 season? What does this mean for Norrie’s future? We can ask and grapple with these questions, but they can wait for Australia in January. Right now seems like a good time to simply sit in the present moment and appreciate how much this championship, this achievement, must mean to Norrie, whose hard work and undeniable persistence paid off at this 96-player event which rates as one of the bigger tournaments of the year, especially among the non-majors.

Every player had a huge opportunity in Indian Wells, with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem (the previous champion of this event in 2019), and several other formidable players all missing from the draw. The odd placement on the calendar and the difficult mental challenge awaiting Zverev and Tsitsipas after their stinging U.S. Open losses meant that if Medvedev — the clear favorite on paper — lost early, this really would become anyone’s tournament to win.

Anyone’s.

Cam Norrie became that someone.

He came to a fork in the road, and he definitely took the opportunity.

Someone had to do it. Cam Norrie will never forget it, nor should he.

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