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Sunday August 14, 2022

Djokovic, Alcaraz close in on Wimbledon duel

By AFP
July 03, 2022

LONDON: Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz closed in on a Wimbledon generational clash on Friday as the women’s draw was left with just four top-10 seeds standing.

Three-time defending champion Djokovic demolished Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in the third round to stay on course to equal Pete Sampras as a seven-time champion, one behind Roger Federer’s men’s record.

Friday’s win was the 330th of Djokovic’s Grand Slam career.

“So far, so good,” said the 35-year-old top seed.

“I expect high standards from myself. You always want to raise the level and things are shaping up well.”

Djokovic has now won 22 successive matches on grass and is in the last 16 at Wimbledon for the 14th time.

He has not lost a grass-court match since falling to Marin Cilic in the final at Queen’s four years ago.

“I started very well, very strong with a lot of intensity and focus,” added Djokovic, whose only blip was being broken when he served for the match at 5-2 in the third set.

In the last 16, he will face Dutch wild card Tim van Rijthoven. Playing in his debut Grand Slam main draw, the world number 104 defeated 22nd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. The 25-year-old Van Rijthoven proved his prowess on grass by winning the ‘s-Hertogenbosch title last month, defeating world number one Daniil Medvedev in the final. “Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play Djokovic,” said Van Rijthoven, only the seventh man since 2000 to reach the round of 16 on his Grand Slam debut.

“So to be able to have that chance and to maybe even play on Centre Court or Court 1 is beautiful and magical.”

After needing four sets to get past Kwon Soon-woo in the first round, Djokovic has dropped just 14 games since. If he beats Van Rijthoven, he could meet Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.

The 19-year-old Spaniard swept past Germany’s Oscar Otte 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 to make the fourth round for the first time.

Alcaraz, who hit 37 winners in total, goes on to face Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner, who put out John Isner in straight sets.

The only consolation for Isner was passing Ivo Karlovic as the sport’s greatest hitter of aces, taking his career total to 13,748.

British ninth seed Cameron Norrie also qualified for the last 16 with a thumping 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 win over Steve Johnson.

Maria Sakkari became the sixth of the top 10 women’s seeds to crash out before the end of the third round.

The fifth-seeded Greek lost 6-3, 7-5 to German world number 103 Tatjana Maria, who returned to the tour last year after maternity leave.

Maria, in the fourth round of a Slam for the first time, will face former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the quarter-finals. “It feels amazing, first time in the last 16. To win against Sakkari, it’s pretty awesome,” said mother-of-two Maria.

Ostapenko, a semi-finalist in 2018, took her winners count to 102 over three rounds by defeating Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Germany’s Jule Niemeier followed up her win over second seed Anett Kontaveit by seeing off Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in three sets.

Also exiting Friday was 2018 champion Angelique Kerber, with the German 15th seed beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Elise Mertens.

The Belgian, who had to save two match points in her previous round, next faces world number two Ons Jabeur. A quarter-finalist in 2021, Tunisia’s Jabeur breezed past French teenager Diane Parry 6-2, 6-3.

World number one Iga Swiatek, Jabeur, Paula Badosa and Jessica Pegula are the only top-10 seeds left.

Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul kept up American momentum at Wimbledon by reaching the last 16 for the first time.

In all, eight American men made the third round, the most at Wimbledon since 1995.

Meanwhile, Venus Williams made a winning return to Wimbledon when the 42-year-old American teamed with Britain’s Jamie Murray in the mixed doubles. The wild-card pair defeated Michael Venus and Alicja Rosolska 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 in their first round clash.

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