Novak Djokovic is set to hear a famous old centre court refrain of ‘C’mon Tim!’ when he takes on a little-known wildcard on the next step of his seemingly unstoppable journey to a seventh Wimbledon title.
In the old days, that was the cry whenever British hero Tim Henman was in action – but now it’s Tim van Rijthoven, the Dutch world No.104, who’ll have the home fans on his side while seeking to create one of sport’s greatest upsets in the fourth round.
For match by match, Djokovic is finding his old surgical precision with such ominous certainty that four singles titles in a row now looks to be more a probability than a possibility.
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The Serbian’s latest victim was his fellow countryman Miomir Kecmanovic, who was simply blown away 6-0 6-3 6-4 on Friday.
Meanwhile, van Ritjhoven, who was barely known even in his homeland until his win in the s’Hertogenbosch tournament recently, was moving sweetly into the last-16 with an eighth straight win on grass, 6-4 6-3 6-4 over Nikoloz Basilashvili.
On court 12, the crowd were serenading him with ‘C’mon Tim!’, leaving the 25-year-old to smile: “I think it’s Tim Henman you’re talking about, that’s just a little bit before my time! For me, it didn’t really sound familiar …”
But van Rijthoven reckons it will be “beautiful and magical” to face the 20-time grand slam champion and promises he’ll go into the match fearlessly, believing he can win.
But Djokovic just seems to have rediscovered the cloak of invulnerability which had deserted him of late as he motored machine-like through the first set of their third-round contest in just 24 minutes.
The biggest cheer of the day? When the luckless Kecmanovic at last got on the scoreboard after 35 minutes by successfully negotiating another fiendishly difficult service game.
Kecmanovic is fancied as being one of the Serbians who’ll eventually take the reins from the 35-year-old maestro, but those days seemed a long way off as the six-times champion eased into the fourth round for the 14th time.
“Honestly, I think I have been playing better and better as the tournament progresses, which is something you always wish for,” said Djokovic.
And he’s ready for van Ritjhoven. “He’s one of the talks of the tournament here,” said Djokovic.
“I’ve known him for a very long time. Same generation. We grew up playing in junior events.
I’m sure he’s excited to play on a big stage. He doesn’t have much to lose. He’s on his dream run.”
There’ll be a terrific fourth round tie featuring two of the game’s young European guns as Jannik Sinner tamed world record-breaker John Isner and Carlos Alcaraz disposed of tricky German Oscar Otte.
Sinner won 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 even though the giant American Isner became the most prolific ace server in history, needing less than two service games to get the five he needed to overtake Ivo Karlovic’s tally of 13,728.
He ended up with 24 for the match but Sinner was simply too good in every other area, as dominant as 19-year-old Alcaraz was in his 6-3 6-1 6-2 schooling of Otte.
“This was the best match on grass I have ever played,” Alcaraz told the No.1 court crowd after becoming the youngest man in more than a decade to reach the last 16.