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Novak Djokovic rushes to beat Wimbledon curfew after late start almost forces players to return on Monday

WIMBLEDON — Novak Djokovic came through a brief scare to set up a quarter-final meeting with Jannik Sinner, beating Tim van Rijthoven 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 and the 11pm curfew on Centre Court by just a few minutes.

An agreement with local residents and the council means play has to stop at SW19 at 11pm and after a lunchtime celebration of 100 years of tennis at the stadium only started at 1.30pm and did not finish until 2.15pm.

It meant that Djokovic vs Van Rijthoven did not even start until 8pm, giving them a three-hour slot in which to finish or they would be forced to come back on Monday to complete the fixture.

Afterwards, Djokovic said he was unsure if the curfew still existed, but breathed a sigh of relief that he had not fallen foul of it.

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“I had some previous experiences playing a match [over] two days under the roof with [Rafael] Nadal a few years ago,” Djokovic said afterwards.

“So yeah, it’s never really pleasant to not finish a match the same day, but I did.”

On paper, it was a mismatch; until Van Rijthoven shot to a shock title in Rosemalen just a few weeks ago, he was ranked outside the top 200 in the world. Then he beat Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and finally Daniil Medvedev, moved up 100 places in the rankings and was handed a Wimbledon wildcard.

Nevertheless, Djokovic on Centre Court is a cut above in terms of challenge and, despite having two early break points, he lost the first three games to suggest this might well be a bridge too far and was broken again to drop the first set 6-2.

Van Rijthoven warmed to the task, although humid conditions under the roof that somewhat nullified his powerful serve that had been up at 66 per cent unreturned in the previous three rounds. However, he did find a way to break Djokovic in the seventh game of the second set, hitting what John McEnroe called on commentary “seven perfect shots” to secure it with a smash.

The finishing line is a funny thing though, even at an intermediary stage, and Van Rijthoven had to rely on his serve (and a 107moh forehand) to save four break points before securing the set.

From that point on though, Djokovic was ruthless. His experience and quality showed as he lost just three more games and wrapped up the match a good 20 minutes before the cut-off of 11pm that would have forced him to come back on Monday to finish the match off.

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