It is, to be sure, the stuff of movies: An oft-injured guy ranked outside the top 100, making his Grand Slam debut thanks to a wild card, knocks out two seeded players on his way to a fourth-round matchup at Wimbledon against none other than No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the three-time defending champion.
We can guess what Hollywood might do with that script. Tim van Rijthoven, a 25-year-old Dutchman, earned the chance to see what will happen in real life across the net from Djokovic after both men won in straight sets on Friday at the All England Club.
“Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play him, basically. So to be able to have that chance, and to maybe even play on Centre Court or Court 1, is beautiful and magical,” Van Rijthoven said after beating No. 22 Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 on Court 12, with its capacity of 1,736, to become the first wild-card entry since 2015 to get to the round-of-16 at Wimbledon.
“I go into every match thinking I can win the match,” said Van Rijthoven, whose baseline-based style eliminated No. 15 Reilly Opelka earlier in the week. “Also, against Djokovic, I’ll go into that match thinking I can win that match.”
Actually, until last month, the backward-ballcap-wearing Van Rijthoven had not won a match on the ATP Tour.
Since then, he has not lost one, going 8-0, including a victory over current No. 1 Daniil Medvedev to claim the trophy at a grass-court event in the Netherlands.
“It’s been a long one. I’ve had my ups and downs, injuries here and there. Also struggled mentally,” said Van Rijthoven, whose health issues included wrist surgery, a procedure on a vein in his right arm because of thrombosis and nine months healing from “golfer’s elbow” that he noted with a smile he incurred from playing tennis.
“I’m just happy to be in the place I am right now,” he said. “I hope to be there for a couple more years — or a lot more years, actually.”
Djokovic advanced after a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 22 Miomir Kecmanovic on Centre Court, which has nearly 15,000 seats.
“His game, from what I’ve seen, is quite suitable to this surface. His big serve, one-handed backhand. Uses the slice well. He’s an all-around player. He can play fast, he can also stay in the rally and come to the net,” Djokovic said of his opponent today.
Other’s to play in the fourth round of the men’s singles today are Carlos Alcaraz against Jannik Sinner; Frances Tiafoe against David Goffin; and Tommy Paul against Cam Norrie.
In the women’s singles, Maria Sakkari became the sixth of the top 10 seeded player to crash out before the end of the third round.
The fifth-seeded Greek lost 6-3, 7-5 to German world No. 103 Tatjana Maria, who returned to the tour last year after maternity leave.
Maria, in the fourth round of a Slam for the first time, faces former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the quarter-finals.
Ostapenko, a semi-finalist in 2018, took her winners count to 102 over three rounds by defeating Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Germany’s Jule Niemeier followed up her win over second seed Anett Kontaveit by seeing off Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in three sets.
Also exiting Friday was 2018 champion Angelique Kerber, with the German 15th seed beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Elise Mertens.
The Belgian next faces world No. 2 Ons Jabeur, who breezed past French teenager Diane Parry 6-2, 6-3.
World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Jabeur, Paula Badosa and Jessica Pegula were the only top-10 seeds left, with Swiatek, Badosa and Pegula to play after press time last night.
In the second round of the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and partner Shuko Aoyama of Japan advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Maia Lumsden and Naiktha Bains of Britain.
In the mixed doubles, Chan and Japan’s Ben McLachlan were eliminated in the second round by Colombia’s Robert Farah and Ostapenko 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.
Chan’s sister, Latisha Chan, and partner Ivan Dodig of Croatia were to play their second-round mixed doubles match against Germany’s Andreas Mies and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand after press time.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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