Dutch wildcard Tim van Rijthoven continued his fairytale grasscourt run on Friday, claiming his eight straight victory on the surface to storm into the Wimbledon fourth round on his Grand Slam main draw debut.
The 25-year-old was ranked 205th in the world and had not won a title even on the Challenger Tour when he triumphed at the ATP 250 grasscourt event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, defeating world number one Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-1 in the final.
“From the outside it obviously looks like a fairytale because it came out of nowhere for a lot of people,” Van Rijthoven told reporters after defeating 22nd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-4 6-3 6-4 in the third round.
“Also, the ATP title for me came out of nowhere because I didn’t even win a challenger title before. Played some finals. The level there is just also very high.
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“It’s basically a sum-up of a lot of hard work, a lot of belief, and eventually very positive vibes just going into matches and going into practices.”
Van Rijthoven defeated big-serving American Reilly Opelka, seeded 15th, in his previous round and Friday’s victory made him the first men’s wildcard to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon since Denis Kudla in 2015.
He sent down 21 aces against Basilashvili.
“For me the serve I think is working fantastic,” said the Dutchman, who was deprived of three years of his playing career due to three major injuries. “I’ve only been broken the last, let’s say, eight matches a couple times.
“Because of the serve I can just set up my game very well. I like to play aggressive, like to play a lot of forehands, also like to use my slice. All those things are very nice to have on grass.”
Next up is a potential meeting with six-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, who meets fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic later on Friday.
“Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play him basically,” said van Rijthoven, whose news conference on Friday was moved from a smaller room to the main interview room due to the media interest.
“So to be able to have that chance and to maybe even play on Centre Court or Court One is beautiful and magical.
“I go into every match thinking I can win the match. Also against Djokovic I’ll go into that match thinking I can win that match.”
Tiafoe steals the show in Bublik circus act
American 23rd seed Frances Tiafoe kept his focus in the face of an Alexander Bublik circus act to reach the Wimbledon fourth round for the first time.
The 24-year-old punched the air with delight as a Bublik double-fault sealed a 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(3), 6-4 victory in front of an enthralled audience on Court Two.
Kazakhstan’s Bublik is one of the great entertainers in men’s tennis — a rival to Nick Kyrgios in terms of trick shots but without the scowls and controversy.
Bublik held the upper hand when he took the opening set but Tiafoe stuck manfully to his task and won the second on a tiebreak before doing the same in the third.
Bublik appeared to have thrown in the towel when trailing 3-0 in the fourth but it was just a ruse.
The world number 38 delivered virtually every first serve under arm in the following game and when most of them failed to land in the box he followed up with 130mph second serves.
There was also pure genius from Bublik, including a no-look drop shot and scorching baseline winners, and he miraculously retrieved a lob to win a magical rally and break serve, before squaring the set at 4-4 with a booming ace.
Tiafoe looked in danger of being suckered in to the Bublik sideshow when he faced a break point at 4-4 but the American banged down an ace and held with a drop shot reply to a Bublik serve return drop shot, getting a clap from his opponent.
The crowd wanted the match to go on, such was the level of entertainment, but Bublik could not hold.
He left the court smiling and to huge cheers, while Tiafoe can now look forward to a more conventional test against either David Goffin or Ugo Umbert.
Tiafoe is only the third active American male player to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam on four occasions, the others being John Isner and Sam Querrey.