Novak Djokovic relieved to win before 11pm curfew after late start at Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic first stepped on to Centre Court at 1.45pm and did not finish his fourth-round match against Tim van Rijthoven until almost 11 o’clock at night after what must go down as a Wimbledon scheduling miscalculation.
The top seed and six-time winner joined a parade of former Wimbledon champions alongside the likes of Rod Laver, Billie Jean King, Bjorn Borg, Andy Murray and Roger Federer to celebrate Centre Court’s centenary before play commenced.
However, the decision to begin the ceremony at 1.30pm in the afternoon meant Heather Watson’s match against Jule Niemeier did not start until 2.24pm.
By the time Jannik Sinner had beaten Carlos Alcaraz in four sets, Djokovic finally began his match at 8pm.
The 20-time grand slam champion was therefore in a hurry, but after racing through the first set Dutch dark horse Van Rijthoven took the second at 9.45pm.
But Djokovic put his foot down to make sure he narrowly beat Wimbledon’s 11pm curfew by 21 minutes, meaning he did not have to come back on Monday to finish the match, by running out a 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 winner.
Clearly the late finish was not ideal for the 35-year-old, as he pointedly thanked the crowd, and fellow six-time singles champion King, for seeing the match through.
“Thanks for staying for this late finish to watch tennis. Thank you Billie Jean for staying, I know it’s been a long day,” he said.
“Under the roof it takes a bit of time to get used to the conditions, but I finished the match well.
“I don’t know if there was a curfew. There is? Phew! I am lucky, thank God.
“I remember playing a match over two days with (Rafael) Nadal a few years ago, in the semi-final. It’s never very pleasant.”
It's really an indoor tournament in most cases when you're scheduled last on Centre or Court One
Djokovic later revealed talks have taken place about the possibility of starting play earlier on Wimbledon’s show courts, a move he would advocate.
“I don’t see a reason why there wouldn’t be an earlier start, to be honest, particularly now that there are on-court interviews that we didn’t have up to few years ago,” he said.
“Also with the time between the matches, almost certainly, if you’re scheduled last on Centre, you’re going to end up a match under the roof.
“It’s really an indoor tournament in most cases when you’re scheduled last on Centre or Court One.
“Of course today it was a special occasion. I think it was necessary to celebrate the 100 years of Centre Court. For me it was an honour. I was very happy to be part of it.
“But I think most of the players would probably agree that we would all want the start of the match on Centre Court pushed earlier.”
Djokovic will face Sinner in the quarter-finals after the Italian won the battle of the youngsters against Alcaraz.
Belgium’s David Goffin won the longest match of the Championships so far, a four-hour 36-minute marathon against Frances Tiafoe.
Goffin, the former world number seven, came from 2-1 down to triumph 7-6 (3) 5-7 5-7 6-4 7-5.
Goffin also beat Tiafoe at the French Open last month and the American said with a smile: “The only thing I can say honestly right now is f*** David. He beat me two slams in a row. F*** that guy.”
The 31-year-old Goffin will face Britain’s Cameron Norrie following his straight-sets win against American Tommy Paul.
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