Big match here for Tommy Paul and Cameron Norrie in the Indian Wells Round 16, with both players having the chance to achieve one of the biggest performances of their careers by reaching a Masters quarterfinal.
Tommy Paul is having the time of his life on these Indian Wells slow hard courts. Paul’s breakout has been expected by US tennis fans for some time, and it seems like the 24 year old American is finally coming out of his shell. Paul had a decent Summer swing on the US hard courts, reaching the second round in Toronto and Cincinnati, but he was entering IW on a three match losing streak. Out of nowhere, he put on a tennis clinic to defeat Lopez, Lajovic, and most notably Rublev in a thriller, losing just one set along the way.
Norrie had a great tournament last week in San Diego, where he defeated the likes of Shapovalov and Rublev to reach the final, although that performance was somewhat overshadowed by the spanking he got from Ruud in the last act: 0-6 2-6. Here at IW, Norrie got past Sandgren and Bautista Agut in three sets each.
Although Norrie is the more accomplished player, Paul leads the H2H 2-0 (both meetings on hard courts), including winning a match against Norrie this year in three sets at the Murray River Open.
At first glance, one might be tempted to think Norrie should have this. He’s coming after a final last week, beat some good players, and theoretically he’s the better player overall. However, fact is that Paul is playing better tennis right now.
The American was superb in his three matches here, and beating Rublev in the third round was huge. Rublev actually played pretty well, but Paul simply refused to go away, putting on a clinic of counterpunching and smart aggressive tennis in order to claim a deserved win. It was fully earned, and not gifted. It’s true that Norrie also beat the same Rublev last week, but the Russian was playing better this time around, and was more involved given the magnitude of the tournament – so it’s fair to say that Paul’s win was more impressive.
Norrie did great to reach that San Diego final a few days ago, but he was blown off the court by Ruud in the title match, showing weaknesses which were visible this week as well. Norrie was good but not great against Sandgren and Bautista Agut here in IW. At one point he was holding on for dear live against Bautista before eventually managing to get that one final push.
Maybe some tired legs could also come into play. Norrie is not used to playing so much tennis, and if one thing is for certain, it’s that Paul will make him run.
I think Paul is the favorite here as long as he continues to play at the same level, and if he managed to maintain that level against an experienced Rublev, I don’t see why he wouldn’t against Norrie – especially having the extra confidence given by the 2-0 H2H record. Prediction: Tommy Paul – Cameron Norrie 7-5 3-6 6-3.