At Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic plays a wild card on a dream run

Tim van Rijthoven
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A month ago, Tim van Rijthoven was six years removed from his one and only ATP main draw tournament match. On Sunday, he will play Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of Wimbledon, likely on the most famous court in tennis.

“From the outside, it obviously looks like a fairy tale,” van Rijthoven said Friday after knocking off a second consecutive seeded player, No. 22 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic called van Rijthoven “one of the talks of the tournament.”

“There is a challenge when you’re facing someone for the first time, that someone obviously has not much to lose,” Djokovic said. “He’s on his dream run.”

WIMBLEDON DRAWS: Women | Men

Van Rijthoven, now 25, was an accomplished junior player, even reaching the 2014 Wimbledon boys’ quarterfinals. But his growth as a pro was stunted by three years of injuries, including artery or vein surgery, wrist surgery and what he called golfer’s elbow.

“I got it while playing tennis,” he said.

Van Rijthoven also dealt with mental struggles. He still managed to play a lot of tennis, though not many people saw it. In August 2016, he made his ATP Tour-level main draw debut, losing in the first round of a lower-level tournament.

Since, he played nearly 200 matches on the minor-league Challenger and ITF circuits, wielding his racket in Bahrain, Orlando, India, Lexington and Ludwigshafen, Germany.

But he didn’t break back into the big leagues, another ATP main draw, until getting a wild card into last month’s grass-court Libema Open while ranked 205th. It probably helped that van Rijthoven is Dutch and the tournament was in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.

Van Rijthoven made the most of the opportunity, knocking out No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz, No. 2 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev en route to one of the unlikeliest titles in ATP history.

That result earned him a wild card invitation into Wimbledon. Van Rijthoven hasn’t played here since that 2014 junior run and had not played anywhere on grass at the senior level until May. He tried and failed to qualify into the Australian Open and French Open earlier this year.

This week, he credited his success to his serve more than anything else. On grass more than any other surface, a serve can power a player deep into tournaments.

He’s dropped just three service games among three matches going into the showdown with Djokovic. He has 53 aces, which will likely put him among the top half of the 16 men who reach the second week.

“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,” he said.

His career prize money before this tournament was $303,889. By making the fourth round, he’s guaranteed about $229,000.

He is the first men’s wild card to make it this far at Wimbledon since Denis Kudla in 2015. Now, he will try to become the first man to beat Djokovic at Wimbledon since 2017.

“Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play him,” van Rijthoven said. “So to be able to have that chance and to maybe even play on Centre Court or Court 1 is beautiful and magical.

“I’m just kind of riding the wave right now, see where it ends.”

Also Friday, 37-year-old American John Isner broke the record for most career aces, passing Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who recorded 13,728, in a three-set loss to Jannik Sinner.

The 30-year-old Brit Heather Watson made her first Grand Slam fourth round in her 43rd career Grand Slam main draw. She’ll play fellow unseeded player Jule Niemeier of Germany for a place in the quarterfinals. Recently retired Jo Konta is the only British woman to make the Wimbledon quarters since 1985.

German Tatjana Maria, a 34-year-old mother of two, upset No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece to reach the fourth round of a Slam for the first time in her 35th try.

Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul reached the fourth round and could be joined there by more Americans. Eight U.S. men reached the third round, the most at any Grand Slam since the 1996 U.S. Open.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde
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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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