A combination of Sir Cliff Richard’s singing, a Centre Court ceremony and a four-set win for Jannik Sinner over Carlos Alcaraz meant that the final match of the day did not begin until 8pm. That left Djokovic and Van Rijthoven with three hours to get the job done on Sunday night.
The six-time Wimbledon champion wrapped up a 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory with 22 minutes to spare, to extend his long winning run at the tournament. Djokovic has not lost at SW19 since retiring against Tomas Berdych in the 2017 quarter-finals.
A thrilling conclusion to the second set not only got Centre Court going but so too Djokovic, as he then raced to the finish line in ruthless fashion. He will face Sinner in an eagerly-anticipated quarter-final.
A Centre Court crowd needs no encouragement to shout ‘come on Tim’ but for once they had a worthy excuse for doing so as they tried to rally Van Rijthoven, a player in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time and who until a month ago had not won a match on the ATP Tour.
Two aces from the Dutchman in his opening service game did not prove enough for a hold, as Djokovic quickly established a 2-0 lead. Van Rijthoven had two opportunities to immediately get it back on serve, but the top seed saved both break points.
Another chance came for Van Rijthoven, this time wasted with a tame slice into the net, and within minutes he was sat on his chair reflecting on losing the opening set as Djokovic broke for a second time with a stunning backhand winner to take it 6-2.
The pair exchanged holds at the start of the second set before a sparkling game resulted in Van Rijthoven taking control. He brought up another break point with a lovely drop shot at the end of a sensational point, and the Dutchman was able to convert as he put away a smash at the net.
Van Rijthoven stepped up to serve for the set at 5-4 and it proved to be another epic game. A nerveless second-serve ace brought up a third set point for Van Rijthoven, but not before he had to see off four break points as Djokovic piled the pressure on. Fittingly it was an ace out wide that got the job done and levelled the match.
Djokovic went through the gears in the third set as Van Rijthoven’s levels dropped. The outcome was not a good one for the ‘Come on Tim’ faithful. A double break was secured with a couple of sublime lobs, before Djokovic held to move within a game of a third-set bagel. The lobbing clinic continued to bring up two set points but Van Rijthoven saved those, and later a third, to at least get on the board in the set. That was all he could do though, as a comfortable Djokovic hold moved him to within a set of victory.
Two break points came for Djokovic in the opening game of the fourth and he needed just one, the top seed in no mood to risk having to return on Monday to complete the job. Van Rijthoven found a couple of holds to keep himself in touch but once again the double break came, Djokovic’s returns doing a brilliant job of neutralising Van Rijthoven’s serve as he moved 5-2 up.
A flat backhand winner brought up two match points, as Djokovic then finished the job with a wonderful forehand down the line to beat the Dutchman and the clock.