WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Even knowing what an unusual
Wimbledon this has been, what with so many unexpected results and new faces popping up, and so few top seeds — and major champions — remaining, surely Novak Djokovic would not lose to a
wild-card entry making his Grand Slam debut, would he?
If it did not quite seem plausible, it did at least become vaguely possible a tad past 9:30 p.m. on Sunday night under the closed roof at
Centre Court, when 25-year-old Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven — ranking: 104th; lifetime tour-level victories: eight, all in the past month — had the temerity to smack a 133 mph ace past Djokovic and tie their fourth-round match at a set apiece.
All of nine minutes later, the time it took Djokovic to grab 12 of the next 15 points, and the next three games, both plausibility and possibility took a hike. Soon enough, the third set was his, and not much later, so was the fourth, and the match, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 result that gave the tournament's No. 1 seed a 25th consecutive grass-court victory at the
All England Club and a place in his 13th Wimbledon quarterfinal.
"Novak did his Novak thing," van Rijthoven said, "and played very, very well. He had all the answers."
Beforehand, van Rijthoven had said: "I'll go into that match thinking I can win." Might have still had that sense Sunday evening. If only briefly.