Wimbledon: Tiafoe Keeps His Cool, Reaches Fourth Round For First Time

Frances Tiafoe (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 1, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

It wasn’t easy for charismatic American Frances Tiafoe to keep his cool or put up with the one-man-show antics of his opponent, the powerful-serving Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, on No. 2 Court with a berth in the fourth round of the Wimbledon Championships at stake. Remarkably, though, Tiafoe kept his focus when it mattered the most.

The No. 23 seed Tiafoe came back from a set down to win, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3), 6-4, and reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in his fifth appearance at the All England Club.

By the middle of the fourth set, the 38th-ranked Bublik pulled out all of his tricks of the trade – dink shots, chip shots, spin and slice, underarm serves. There were plenty of those. It threw off Tiafoe’s timing for a few games. However, Tiafoe recovered and came on strong at the finish. He left the court smiling.

The 28th-ranked Tiafoe hit 45 winners and converted three of nine break points against Bublik, who slammed 25 aces and struck 71 winners but also made 45 unforced errors. Tiafoe outpointed his opponent 148-142.

“It was definitely a tough one,” Tiafoe said in his on-court interview. “At the end, when he was spinning in underarm serves and those antics, I was close to losing my head. I was glad I got through that. He’s a very good player, very talented. There is no game plan against that.

“Obviously, you’ve just got to take care of your side of the court. It’s not easy because he can hit some crazy shots and before you know it, you’re back on serve. And he had a break point to serve for the fourth. I was very happy to get out of there, very lucky and played some good points at the end. But, yeah, there is no game plan for it.”

Next, Tiafoe will face No. 58 David Goffin of Belgium, who came from a set down to beat No. 112 Ugo Humbert of France, 4-6 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 45 minutes on Court 18.

Van Rijtohoven’s dream season on grass continues

Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands, in his grand Glam Debut, eliminated 22nd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, in their one-hour and 42-minute, third-round match on Court 12.

The 104th-ranked van Rijthoven is only the seventh player since 2000 to reach the fourth round in his first main-draw appearance at a major.

Van Rijthoven, who had not won an ATP Tour-level match before last month’s Libema Open – a tournament which he went on to win after defeating Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev – has dropped serve just once in his three matches. Against Basilashvili, he hit 21 aces and won 88 percent of his first-serve points.

Now, he’s undefeated (8-0) on grass this season and has earned a fourth-round meeting with top seed Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

“From the outside it obviously looks like a fairytale because it came out of nowhere for a lot of people,” van Rijthoven said during 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.”

Djokovic moves a step closer to fourth straight Wimbledon title

Three-time reigning Wimbledon men’s champion Novak Djokovic is safely through to the fourth found after winning his 24th straight at the All England Club, against fellow Serbian and No. 25 seed Miomir Kecmanovic.

The 35-year-old Belgrade native, who has captured six Wimbledon crowns overall, won 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 over Kecmanovic in one hour and 53 minutes on Centre Court. He hit 36 winners and converted six of 14 break points. Djokovic outpointed his opponent 97-64.

It was Djokovic’s 35th consecutive Centre Court triumph.

Djokovic’s 24 straight grass-court wins drew him even with Hall of Fame great Rod Laver in third place on the Open Era list for longest tour-level winning streak on the surface.

“I think I’ve been playing better and better as the tournament progresses,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview. “That’s obviously something that you always wish for as a player, that every match that you play you raise the level of tennis up a notch at least, and I think that is what is happening at the moment.

“I know I can always do better. I always expect the highest from myself, but I think so far, so good, and looking forward to the next challenge.”

Brit-watch: Finest hour lifts Watson into first Wimbledon fourth round

Great Britain’s Heather Watson has played in the shadows of her more famous countrywoman Emma Raducanu early this fortnight – and Thursday, it was Katie Boulter’s day to shine on Centre Court after upsetting No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova.

However, in front of a packed crowd on No. 1 Court Friday afternoon, Watson enjoyed her finest hour in her 12th Wimbledon appearance. Now, at age 30, Watson is through to the fourth round at the All England Club for the first time.

Watson, once ranked as high as 38th but now No. 121, defeated No. 62 Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, 7-6 (6), 6-2, in an hour and 42 minutes to move into the round of 16. She previously had been to the third round in 2012, 2015 and 2017 before this year. But reaching the fourth round is a breakthrough for the Guernsey native.

After Watson secured match point, she raised her arms in celebration as British fans waved Union Jacks throughout the No. 1 Court stands. Then, she knelt on the court and, soon, beamed a smile towards her friends and family.

During her post-match interview on court, the personable Watson thanked her family and friends “for pushing me through, being with me through thick and thin.” She also gave praise to the partisan fans for their passion and support.

“Firstly, it would not be me if there was not a bit of drama at the end,” Watson said on court. “Wow. What an atmosphere. I mean, you guys are what got me over the line at the end.”

Next, Watson will face Germany’s 97th-ranked Jule Niemeier, who defeated No. 101 Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Around the All England Club

• No 3 seed Ons Jabeur continued her impressive grass-court season, which has already included a title at Berlin. The World No. 2 from Tunisia easily beat France’s Diane Parry, 6-2, 6-3, in 68 minutes on Centre Court.

Jabeur hit 22 winners and made just 14 unforced errors. Jabeur has not dropped any sets and she outpointed the No. 77 Parry 64-42 to move into the fourth round against No. 24 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who defeated 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber of Germany, 6-4, 7-5, on No. 1 Court.

The victory was the 27-year-old Jabeur’s eighth straight going back to the start of Berlin two weeks ago and she’s dropped just 13 games during the first week at SW19.

“It was a great match for me,” Jabeur said in her on-court interview. “It’s tough to play young, talented players like her, especially on a great court that I love so much. I’m very happy I go the win in two sets and hopefully I continue playing this way.”

• No. 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia is into the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in four years after beating No. 43 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. It’s the fourth time Ostapenko has made it to the round of 16, three of those at the All England Club. After winning the French Open in 2017, she reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in the same year and the semifinals in 2018.

Next, Ostapenko will play 34-year-old German mother of two Tatjana Maria, who upset No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-3, 7-5, in 90 minutes on No. 2 Court. The 103rd-ranked Maria’s best surface is grass – she’s 21-18 in her career. She’s the oldest player left in the women’s draw. Meanwhile, Sakkari, who was appearing in her sixth main draw at Wimbledon, has never made it past the third round.

• No. 30 seed Tommy Paul of the United States became the second American man to reach the fourth round after he defeated No. 68 Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Friday’s Wimbledon results

Saturday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

• Eight U.S. men reached the third round, accounting for one-fourth of the 32 players. It’s the most for the U.S. at Wimbledon since 1995. It’s also the most at any major for the American men since 1996. The last U.S. man to win a Grand Slam title was Andy Roddick 19 years ago at the U.S. Open.

Meanwhile, there are four U.S. women into the third round: No. 8 seed Jessica Pegula, No. 11 seed Coco Gauff, No. 20 seed Amanda Anisimova and Alison Riske.

• When Rafael Nadal beat Ricardas Berankis during Thursday’s second round play for his 307thcareer major victory, he passed Martina Navratilova for fourth-most Grand Slam wins in tennis history, man or woman. The record for most career wins at majors is held by Roger Federer with 369, followed by Serena Williams 365, Novak Djokovic 329, Nadal 307 and Navratilova 306.

“Quotable …”

“I think when she’s playing well, it’s very difficult to stop her because her shot are little bit different, with a lot of power. She’s able to move well. When she’s [playing] with confidence, I think she has shots that are very difficult to stop for the rest of the girls.

“I like her. I think she has a very positive attitude, fresh air for the world of tennis. Happy that a good girl like her is having a lot of success.”

Rafael Nadal of Spain, during his Thursday post-match press conference, speaking about women’s World No. 1 Iga Swiatek.