Ons Jabeur continues bid for maiden Grand Slam as Wimbledon hosts first middle Sunday

Three-time defending men's champion Djokovic also in action as well as rising star Alcaraz

Ons Jabeur has dropped just 13 games to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon. AFP
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Ons Jabeur continues her bid for a maiden Grand Slam title when she takes on Elise Mertens in the fourth round at Wimbledon's new middle Sunday, and expectations are rising following recent results in the women's draw.

Third seed Jabeur started the tournament as one of the title favourites having climbed to No 2 in the world rankings and after winning a warm-up event in Berlin. That status has only increased in recent days after the shock exit of world No 1 Iga Switaek, whose 37-match winning run was ended by Alize Cornet on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Jabeur - the only top 10 player remaining in the draw - has been in irrepressible form, dropping only 13 games in three rounds and spending just three hours and six minutes on court.

The Tunisian faces in the last match on Court One Belgian 24th seed Mertens who knocked out 2018 champion Angelique Kerber in the last 32 having saved two match points to beat Panna Udvardy in the second round.

Mertens needed three hours and 15 minutes just to see off Udvardy in the tournament's longest women's match so far.

Should Jabeur make the quarter-finals for a second successive year, she will play either France's Caroline Garcia or Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.

Mother of two Tatjana Maria takes on former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko while Britain's Heather Watson faces Germany's Jule Niemeier.

In the men's draw, world No 1 Novak Djokovic said he is a convert to Wimbledon's new middle Sunday play rule as the three-time defending champion aims at reaching the quarter-finals for the 13th time.

Top seed Djokovic, seeking to move level with Pete Sampras as a seven-time champion at the All England Club, faces Dutch wild card Tim van Rijthoven, the world No 104, in the last match on Centre Court.

Novak Djokovic takes on Tim van Rijthoven in the fourth round. AP

The Serb's last-16 tie will be the highlight of a landmark day which sees play scheduled at the tournament for the first time on the middle Sunday.

It has traditionally been a rest day at Wimbledon with the exception of 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016 when rain in the opening week forced a quick planning reset.

"All the other Grand Slams are playing on mid Sunday. I'm glad that Wimbledon has introduced that. I'm in favour of the rule change," said Djokovic.

The 35-year-old dropped a set in his opening win over Kwon Soon-woo but has since coasted, losing just 14 games in the next two rounds.

Van Rijthoven was ranked outside the top 200 just a month ago. Having won his first ATP title on grass at 's-Hertogenbosch, the Dutchman is making the most of his Wimbledon wild card.

Carlos Alcaraz faces Jannik Sinner in a battle between two of men's tennis most exciting young talents. Getty

He has dropped serve just three times and has defeated seeded players Reilly Opelka and Nikoloz Basilashvili to make the fourth round. Plagued by physical problems since he was 18, Van Rijthoven has endured groin and wrist injuries as well as back spasms. One surgery was required to cure a thrombosis in his arm.

"Before the tournament started, it was a dream for me to play Djokovic," said Van Rijthoven, only the seventh man since 2000 to reach the round of 16 on his Grand Slam debut.

Victory for Djokovic will set-up a mouthwatering quarter-final against Carlos Alcaraz if the Spanish teenager sees off Italy's Jannik Sinner.

Kyrgios beats Tsitsipas in ill-tempered clash

The swashbuckling 19-year-old Alcaraz is bidding to reach his third Slam quarter-final but first at Wimbledon. Alcaraz won the pair's only previous meeting indoors in Paris last year.

Sinner is also seeking a first quarter-final at Wimbledon having fallen in the first round on his main draw debut last year.

Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul will set-up an all-American quarter-final if they overcome Belgium's David Goffin and British ninth seed Cameron Norrie respectively.

Rafael Nadal remains Djokovic's biggest barrier to a fourth successive title after making the last 16 on Saturday.

But mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios cannot be ruled out after he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in a bad-tempered clash on Saturday night.

Updated: July 03, 2022, 9:58 AM
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