TENNIS

Novak Djokovic advances to fourth round at Wimbledon; John Isner sets career record

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Defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon on Friday with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Miomir Kecmanovic on center court, while John Isner became king of aces on the ATP circuit.

Six-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic has won the last three men’s singles titles at the All England Club in London – a 24-game winning streak that began after a quarter-final loss in 2017.

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The top-seeded Serbian will next face Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands.

“Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play it, basically. So to be able to have that chance, and maybe even play on Center Court or Court 1, it’s beautiful and magical,” said van Rijthoven after beating No.22 Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 on court 12, with his 1,736 ability, to become the first wild-card entry since 2015 to qualify for the knockout stages at Wimbledon.

“I go into every game thinking I can win the game,” added van Rijthoven, whose baseline-based style knocked out No.15 Reilly Opelka earlier in the week. “Also, against Djokovic, I will go into this game thinking that I can win this game.”

Until June, van Rijthoven, wearing a backwards cap, had never won a match on the ATP Tour. He hasn’t lost one since then, going 8-0, including a win over current No.1 Daniil Medvedev to lift the trophy at a grass-court event in the Netherlands.

“It’s been a long time. I’ve had ups and downs, injuries here and there. I’ve also struggled mentally,” said van Rijthoven, whose health issues included wrist surgery, surgery on a vein in his right arm due to thrombosis and nine months of healing from the “golfer’s elbow” which he noted with a smile contracted from playing tennis. “I’m just happy to be where I am right now. I hope to be there for a few more years – or a lot more, actually.”

If he is an unknown for most, he is not for Djokovic. This is partly because Djokovic is friends with van Rijthoven’s coach Igor Sijsling. And partly because he kept tabs on the guy.

Djokovic therefore offered a small scouting report.

“His game, from what I’ve seen, is quite suitable for this surface,” Djokovic said. “His big serve, one-handed backhand, uses the slice well. He’s a versatile player. He can play fast. He can also stay in the rally and come to the net. I’m sure he’s thrilled to play on a big stage. He doesn’t have much to lose. He’s on his dream run. He’s a young player just starting out, so I’m sure his career will be very good.”

Isner, the 6-foot-10 American, hit the No. 13,729 ace in his third-round match on Friday to break the ATP Tour record held by Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic. Isner set the record in Game 3 against Jannik Sinner on the No. 2 court.

The ATP said it was the most since the tour began tracking aces in 1991.

Isner hit 24 aces to take his tally to 13,748 but lost 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3 to 10th seed Sinner.

Fellow Americans Jack Sock, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe, meanwhile, all advanced on Friday. Sock became the eighth American to reach the third round at Wimbledon with a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1) victory over compatriot Maxime Cressy, while Tiafoe reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time with a 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Alexander Bublik. Paul beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

The eight American men made up a quarter of the 32 players in the third round, the most for the United States at a grass-court Grand Slam tournament since 1995. It is also the most at any major tournament since the US Open in 1996.

Tiafoe touted the American contingent as “damn good” at approaching success.

“We play good tennis,” Tiafoe said. “I think we always feed off each other. We all believe in that, we all believe that we can even do better than what we’re doing now. One guy does well, the next guy wants to step up.”

Sock, 29, is a three-time Grand Slam doubles champion, including two at Wimbledon. He will next face fellow qualifier Jason Kubler of Australia.

Tiafoe, seeded 23rd, will next face David Goffin, who beat Ugo Humbert 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-5, for a shot in the quarterfinals. The 24-year-old Tiafoe’s best performance at a Grand Slam tournament was reaching the quarter-finals of the 2019 Australian Open.

No. 5 Carlos Alcaraz also advanced with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 32 Oscar Otte and will next face Sinner. No. 9 Cameron Norrie advanced with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 win over Steve Johnson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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