Britain’s Cameron Norrie threw everything he possibly could at Rafael Nadal but ultimately came up short in straight sets in their French Open clash.
Nadal, who turned 35 earlier in the week and is targeting a 14th French Open crown, is always impossibly intense, even at the start of matches. But Norrie gave as good as he got early on, only to eventually fall short after two hours and seven minutes as Nadal reached the last 16 at Roland Garros for the 16th time.
The Brit managed to win a 21-shot rally early on which had fans standing on Court Suzanne Lenglen in just the second game on his own serve. Norrie, repeatedly pushed out wide by the legendary Spaniard, managed to come out on top in what was an epic rally when trying to establish himself at 15-15 in his first service game.
But his moments of ascendancy were fleeting and the reigning champion at Roland Garros took the opening set 6-3 to stamp his authority on the match with a great atmosphere in Paris.
Norrie broke serve at the start of the second set to assume a 2-0 lead and was then left to voice his frustration with the umpire over what he felt was Nadal repeatedly making him wait on serve as the Spaniard broke straight back.
After letting the umpire know how he felt about it, he was told that actually Nadal was playing within the rules:
“It is a reasonable time,” he was told by the umpire.
“Yeah but I’m still going to attack,” replied Norrie before striding back on to the court.
As the match proceeded, Nadal ended up taking the second set with the same scoreline as the first, and the ‘King of Clay’ kicked on to complete a straight-sets win.
Up next for the third seed is a mouthwatering clash with Italian sensation Jannik Sinner, the 18th seed, in the fourth round.
Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have all found themselves in the same part of the men’s draw in what is an intriguing prospect for the latter stages of the tournament.
The draw looks particularly exciting for Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev with the trio not having to face any of the ‘Big Three’ until the final at least.
Djokovic could take on Nadal in the semi-finals in Paris in what would be a repeat from last year’s final in the postponed autumnal edition.
The three most successful players in the history of the men’s game have won 17 of the last 20 Grand Slam titles between them.