Tennis: NZ-raised Cameron Norrie continues breakthrough campaign with victory at Indian Wells

NZ-raised Cameron Norrie has battled back to defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6 6-4 6-1 in the Indian Wells final, becoming the first British man to win the Masters 1000 tournament.

Upset seemed likeily, when the hard-hitting Basilashvili quickly took the first set, but Norrie regrouped in the second, breaking the Georgian at love to force a decider.

In the third set, left-handed Norrie broke early and saved three breakpoints to take a 3-0 lead, as unforced errors began to pile up for Basilashvili under the lights in the Southern California desert.

Norrie sealed the biggest win of his career, when Basilashvili sent a forehand long on championship point.

"What can I say?" said Norrie, after his sixth final of his breakout year. "Obviously, I'm so happy.

"It's my biggest title, so I can't really describe it right now." 

Britain's Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski have all played in the men's finals at Indian Wells, but finished runner-up.

Norrie, 26, was born in South Africa to a Scottish father and Welsh mother, but moved to New Zealand, after a burglary at their Johannesburg home. His parents still live in New Zealand, but Norrie switched his tennis allegiance to Britain, due to a lack of financial support for junior career.

He made his first ATP singles final at Auckland in 2019, where he lost to American Tenys Sandgren, and this latest success has catapulted him to a career-high No.16 ranking.

Norrie has shown steady improvement all year, winning his first ATP singles title at Mexico's Los Cabos Open in July, and expertly forced Basilashvili into long rallies in the final, allowing him to dictate points from the baseline.

He congratulated Basilashvili on his outstanding tournament, where the 29-year-old stunned world No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals and American Taylor Fritz in the semis.

"I'm sorry it went my way," Norrie said. "You deserved it just as much as I did.

"Well done to you and your team on a great week."

Basilashvili was disappointed in the outcome, but looked forward to returning to the event sometimes referred to as the fifth Grand Slam.

The tournament was not held last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was pushed from March to October this year, because of the global health crisis, but will return to its regular March date next year.

"I was hoping to get a title, but it's OK," Basilashvili said. "I will move on, and I hope that I'll come back here in March and play better tennis."

Norrie's breakthrough win comes on the heels of British teenager Emma Raducanu's stunning triumph at the US Open last month.

Earlier in the day, the tournament crowned its first female champion from Spain, when Paula Badosa won a three-set thriller against Victoria Azarenka to claim the biggest title of her career.