The grass-court gains keep on coming for Tim van Rijthoven.
The Dutchman’s dream Grand Slam debut continued in style on Friday at Wimbledon, where he took out 22nd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili with an impressive 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 third-round victory. Currently No. 104 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, van Rijthoven is just the seventh player since 2000 to reach the fourth round on his first main draw appearance at a major.
Van Rijthoven had not won a tour-level match prior to the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch three weeks ago, but the 25-year-old stormed to the title at the ATP 250 event in his homeland with a run that included victories against Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev.
He has maintained that form at Wimbledon, where the 25-year-old is competing as a wild card at the grass-court major. Van Rijthoven dropped serve just once in his opening wins against Federico Delbonis and Reilly Opelka, and the Dutchman was the dominant force again in his third-round clash. He wrapped up a one-hour, 42-minute victory over Basilashvili to set a fourth-round clash with top seed Novak Djokovic or World No. 30 Miomir Kecmanovic.
“From the outside it obviously looks like a fairytale because it came out of nowhere for a lot of people,” said van Rijthoven in his post-match press conference. “Also, the ATP title for me came out of nowhere because I didn’t even win an [ATP Challenger Tour] title before. I played some finals. The level there is just also very high.
“But it’s basically a sum-up of a lot of hard work, a lot of belief, and eventually very positive vibes just going into matches and going into practices. That is basically what’s happening right now, it’s because of that.”
As it was during his title run in the Netherlands, Van Rijthoven’s serve proved a potent weapon against Basilashvili. The 25-year-old won 88 per cent (37/42) of points behind his first delivery against the Georgian, giving him freedom to stay aggressive against his opponent’s serve.
After clinching the opening set with a break of the Basilashvili serve in the ninth game, Van Rijthoven found another level as three further breaks took him to the second set. The World No. 104 struck the ball powerfully from deep with consistency, dictating play as a Basilashvili struggled to find his rhythm in the pair’s maiden ATP Head2Head meeting.
Yet more sharp returning earned Van Rijthoven a 2-0 lead in the third set. On the brink of reaching the fourth round on Grand Slam debut, however, some signs of nerves began to creep in. Five-time tour-level titlist Basilashvili took advantage of a lapse from his opponent to reclaim the break, but the Dutchman regained his composure immediately, converting his first match point on the Basilashvili serve at 5-4.
“Today’s match, it was not like any other match,” said van Rijthoven. “I think he’s a very streaky player. Can play very well at times, can also make some mistakes at times. For me it was just about keeping the ball in play and make him play a lot of shots, give him a chance to miss, basically.
“For me the serve I think is working fantastic. I’ve only been broken the last, let’s say, eight matches a couple times. I think because of the serve I can just set up my game very well.
“I like to play aggressive, like to play a lot of forehands, also like to use my slice. I think all those things are very nice to have on grass.”