LONDON (AFP) – Novak Djokovic admitted he is a convert to Wimbledon’s new middle Sunday play rule as the three-time defending champion aims at reaching the quarter-finals for the 13th time.
Top seed Djokovic, seeking to move level with Pete Sampras as a seven-time champion at the All England Club, faces Dutch wild card Tim van Rijthoven, the world number 104.
His last-16 tie will be the highlight of a landmark day which sees play scheduled at the tournament for the first time on the middle yesterday.
It has traditionally been a rest day at Wimbledon with the exception of 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016 when rain in the opening week forced a quick planning reset.
“All the other Grand Slams are playing on mid Sunday. I’m glad that Wimbledon has introduced that. I’m in favour of the rule change,” said Djokovic.
The 35-year-old dropped a set in his opening win over Kwon Soon-woo but has since coasted, losing just 14 games in the next two rounds. Van Rijthoven was ranked outside the top 200 just a month ago.
Having won his first ATP title on grass at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Dutchman is making the most of his Wimbledon wild card.
He has dropped serve just three times and has defeated seeded players Reilly Opelka and Nikoloz Basilashvili to make the fourth round.
Plagued by physical problems since he was 18, Van Rijthoven has endured groin and wrist injuries as well as back spasms.
One surgery was required to cure a thrombosis in his arm.
“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.