Djokovic defense continues; Isner sets ace mark

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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 Centre Court, while John Isner became the king of aces on the ATP Tour.

Djokovic, the six-time Wimbledon champion, has won the past three men’s singles titles at the All England Club in London — a streak of 24 straight wins that began after a loss in the 2017 quarterfinals.

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

“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,” added 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.”

Until June, the backward-ballcap-wearing van Rijthoven had never won a match on the ATP Tour. Since then, he hasn’t 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. I hope to be there for a couple more years — or a lot more years, actually.”

If he’s an unknown to most, he is not to Djokovic. That’s in part because Djokovic is pals with van Rijthoven’s coach, Igor Sijsling. And in part because he has been keeping an eye on the guy.

So Djokovic offered a bit of a scouting report.

“His game, from what I’ve seen, is quite suitable to this surface,” Djokovic said. “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. 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. He’s a young player that is just starting, so I’m sure his career will be very good.”

Isner, the 6-foot-10 American, hit ace No. 13,729 during his third-round match Friday to break the ATP Tour record held by Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. Isner set the record during the third game against Jannik Sinner on No. 2 Court.

The ATP said that’s the most since the tour began tracking aces in 1991.

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

Fellow Americans Jack Sock, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe, meanwhile, all advanced Friday. Sock became the eighth American man 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 victory over Alexander Bublik. Paul defeated Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

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

Tiafoe touted the American contingent as “damn good” in addressing the success.

“We’re playing great tennis,” Tiafoe said. “I think we always feed off each other. We all believe it, all believe we can be even doing better than what we are doing currently. One guy does well, next guy wants to step up.”

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

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