When Facundo Lugones graduated from Texas Christian University, he was ready to work in the financial industry. Instead, after volunteering as an assistant coach for the team, he got the opportunity to travel with Cameron Norrie, who was leaving school in 2017 to turn pro.
More than four years later, the pair are still going strong and Norrie is enjoying the best season of his career. The left-hander has just reached a career-high No.29 in the FedEx ATP rankings and will look for a deep run at the US Open, where he faces Spaniard #NextGenATP Carlos Alcaraz in the first round.
Lugones recently spoke to ATPTour.com about his time as Norrie’s teammate, how their relationship has evolved, why Norrie is having his best season yet and more.
You met at school. What do you remember about Cameron when he was in first grade?
He was rather laid back, a very social child. He got along well with everyone and was just very friendly, but quite competitive. There wasn’t a lot of structure in his life, it was all a bit haphazard. But he was really competitive, really fun to be around, a great friend. He was like any other college kid … he wanted to have fun more than anything.
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In college tennis, the older kids always try to help the younger ones on the team on and off the court. How much did you do that with him?
I wouldn’t say I helped, but tried to be a good role model and set a good example for him. He didn’t like being told, but he really liked it when people did the right thing and he copied that. He would copy good examples of good deeds from his teammates rather than being told what to do. I think that was the way to do it with him: rather than tell him, show him.
How different is your relationship now compared to when you met him years ago in college?
It’s a little more professional and mature now. When it comes to working out, setting goals, having tough conversations, and preparing for tournaments, it’s very serious. When we’re not in the field at the hotel and talking about any other aspect of life, it’s like friends. It’s about knowing what role we are in and when. In tennis, it’s very serious and focused. When it’s a conversation of life, it’s more relaxed.
– Cameron Norrie (@cam_norrie) March 9, 2018
What’s the biggest difference between him today and when he first turned pro in 2017?
Now he’s a better tennis player and physically he’s a whole different animal. At the time, he had a lot of stamina and was a great competitor, but didn’t have a lot of weapons. He would outlive you, do a lot of bullets, and be tougher than the other guy. Today he has better serve, he is stronger, he tries to dictate the point a lot more. He is more physical and a more complete player.
People often talk about his physical form. Is there a way to describe how physical his game is?
Its main asset on the physical level is its endurance. He can play not just a few hours, but four hours and maintain the same physical level. Some players can be very physical, but only for two hours. I think he has the stamina to do it for many consecutive hours and days, back to back. He moves very well, is explosive, but I think the main thing is his stamina.
The tennis side is something that can always be improved, but not everyone has that physical element. What’s the key?
He has naturally always been a good runner from a young age. He would run long distances with his mother, so naturally he has stamina. He doesn’t really need to work a lot on this. He works a lot harder to be a little stronger and move around better with certain patterns of movement, changing direction and speed.
But we never really work on stamina or surviving someone, because they have that. I think it’s a good plus when you don’t have to worry about it. You only have to worry about the quality and explosiveness on the physical side.
Watch the highlights of Norrie’s first title win in Los Cabos:
It’s been a pretty good year for Cameron. How do you keep pushing for more?
You set new goals and expectations can change. But at the end of the day, his main goal is to keep improving as a tennis player. Now in tournaments we’re not just happy with one or two wins, we want to go deep. You start to set new goals, raise the bar, and look for more. It’s about not staying satisfied. You have to enjoy the good times quickly and prepare for the next challenge.
What are the next goals?
One of them at the start of the year was to finish in the Top 30, and we’re on track for that. Then we must continue to push these goals further and further. If he finishes in the Top 30, next year he will be in the Top 20, then in the Top 15 then in the Top 10 and obviously No. 1. This is the goal of every tennis player.
What is your favorite thing about Cameron besides tennis?
The way he treats people all the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s Andy Murray or a friend of mine in Argentina. He will treat people the same and give them the same attention. He doesn’t care who you are, but in a good way. Also how much fun it is. He’s a great guy, always looking for fun, always up for anything. He’s a pretty normal guy.
Were you able to teach him some Spanish?
I have tried, but it is not very good. It’s something he’s not very good at: languages. His best friend is Chilean and they lived together for three years, but he still doesn’t know much Spanish. He can order now and understand a little more, but he never really learned much Spanish which I kind of regret and I’m sure he too.