“He only wanted to hit forehands, so I was hitting everything there.”
Cameron Norrie was happy to bow to the demands of an unexpected hitting partner in Florida in March.
The 27-year-old Briton took to court with Jon Bon Jovi prior to the Miami Open presented by Itau after the two were put in contact by the music legend’s daughter, a college friend of Norrie’s girlfriend Louise.
“It was so cool,” Norrie told ATPTour.com. “We went to a tennis club next to his place in Palm Beach and I played with him for 25 or 30 minutes. He only started tennis a couple years ago, so he was obsessed with it. For someone who had only played like two years, he was pretty good and [has a] really good technique on the forehand.
“Then he said, ‘Follow me, and we’ll go back to my house’ and we had some food. His house is obviously unbelievable, and he’s such a nice guy. So down to earth and so humble. It was really cool.”
Getting ready for a different kind of tour ..!!@cam_norrie @carlosalcaraz @FTiafoe @RafaelNadal @DaniilMedwed @rogerfederer @serenawilliams pic.twitter.com/dbYtzkUBBt
— Jon Bon Jovi (@jonbonjovi) March 22, 2023
Norrie, No. 13 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, was almost taken aback by the strength of his famous host’s passion for the sport.
“He just loves tennis in general and was so pumped for the [Miami] tournament to go and watch,” said Norrie. “He came to watch me practise [at Hard Rock Stadium] and he was already planning to go to Wimbledon [this year]. He’s got some concerts lined up over the summer [in the UK] and yeah, he was pumped.”
Although admitting he is no Bon Jovi ‘superfan’, Norrie was familiar enough with Bon Jovi’s work to realise he was spending time with rock royalty.
“Obviously I know all his big songs,” said the New Zealand-born 27-year-old. “I love it, but I was not like a huge fan. So I was pretty relaxed, honestly, but I know how big he is and how much of a legend he is. So it was just cool to see how humble he was. He treated me and my girlfriend so well and he was so down earth.”
Norrie’s trip to Palm Beach was not the first time he rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous this year. In Indian Wells in March, he suddenly found himself next to Microsoft co-founder and businessman Bill Gates.
“I was doing a photo shoot there and I said hi, and I talked to him for a little bit,” said Norrie. “He said he plays [tennis] three hours every day, which is a lot. I didn’t get to see him play so I don’t know if he’s any good, but it looks like he obviously likes it.”
Norrie is renowned as one of the most down-to-earth and hard-working players in the locker room. So how does he cope with the occasional celebrity encounters that crop up as part of his life on the ATP Tour?
“I wasn’t [nervous] with [Bon Jovi or Gates], but I think for [some] other famous people I would be,” said Norrie. “Like when I met Andy [Murray] for the first time, I was so nervous, and [Roger] Federer. Guys who I really respect, and I’ve been watching and seeing them.”
On Tuesday at the Foro Italico, Norrie will attempt to make headlines himself when he chases a first win in three attempts against six-time champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
That may seem a tough ask for a player who had only limited exposure to clay courts growing up, yet Norrie has worked hard to improve on the surface. In 2022 he lifted his first clay-court ATP Tour title in Lyon, and in February he became one of just three players to defeat Carlos Alcaraz so far this season with victory in the Rio de Janeiro final.
“I think obviously some good results in South America was great for me,” said Norrie, who went 8-1 across Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, when asked about his prospects for the European clay. “It gave me a lot of confidence, but I think I need to go back to square one and I’m going to have to play my best tennis to have a chance with the best guys in the world.”
The 93-time tour-level champion Djokovic certainly counts as one of those, but Norrie has a clear idea of how he can push the Serbian great when he steps on court for the pair’s fourth-round clash in Rome on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m going to have to make sure I’m rested and play long points,” said Norrie. “On clay it’s no secret, to win matches, for me especially, I’m not going to go out and hit someone off the court. So, I’m going to have to slowly chip away and make it competitive.”