Wimbledon debutant Tim van Rijthoven has been the breakout star of the ATP Tour’s grass-court season behind victories in his first eight tour-level matches on the surface. While his Cinderella run ended in the fourth round at The Championships courtesy of Novak Djokovic, the Dutchman leaves SW19 grateful for the experience.
“Obviously a very big match for me, playing for the first time on Center Court against one of the greatest players of all time,” he said in his post-match press conference following a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 , 6-2 defeat. “[It] was for me already a big win, the fact that I was on Center Court. Really the first couple games I felt that, was a little nervous.”
The 25-year-old put a scare into the three-time defending champion, taking a hard-fought second set by saving four break points to serve it out after six deuces. But Djokovic snapped back with an immediate response, locking down from the baseline to recover.
“I grew up in the match, started to play better,” van Rijthoven continued. “Actually got the second set. Then Novak did his Novak thing and played very, very well. He had all the answers. I tried to make it more of a fight, but just wasn’t possible today.”
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Van Rijthoven was just 1-2 at tour-level entering June, when he shocked Daniil Medvedev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz to win the ‘s-Hertogenbosch title in his second ATP Tour main-draw appearance. After notching five wins to lift his maiden tour-level title in his home nation, the Dutchman scored three more wins at Wimbledon, including upsets of 15th seed Reilly Opelka and 22nd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
While he could not get past Djokovic, he left the top seed impressed with his game.
“I knew coming into the match that it was always going to be a tough, challenging matchup against Tim, who I’ve never faced before,” the Serbian said. “I watched him play. He’s got a really good game for grass, which he proved today. [It] was a very good fight, especially in the first two sets.”
Van Rijthoven entered SW19 at a career-high of No.104 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Without the benefit of Grand Slam fourth-round points for his run on the London lawns, he will remain near that position as he looks to establish himself on the ATP Tour in the coming months.
Instead, he will hope to use his experience on the grass-court swing to propel him to future success.