Djokovic overcomes StepanekComment on this story
London - For an hour on Friday another of tennis's untouchables appeared in danger of falling through the same Wimbledon trapdoor as Rafa Nadal but defending champion Novak Djokovic recovered his poise in time to reach the fourth round.
Nadal was simply blown off court by powerhouse Lukas Rosol on Thursday and Djokovic, up against another Czech in 28th seed Radek Stepanek, found himself outfoxed for a while before recovering to win in style 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-2.
When 33-year-old Stepanek, delighting the crowd with old-fashioned serve and volley tennis and slightly eccentric mannerisms, took the first set there were murmurs around the same Centre Court which was shaken to its foundations by Rosol's barrage of winners against Nadal.
However, Serb Djokovic never looked unduly alarmed under the closed roof and once he began being more aggressive he quickly began to dominate against the oldest survivor in the men's draw.
The top seed broke in the first game of the second, third and fourth sets to re-establish control and raced to victory with a battery of laser-guided passing shots that often left the net-rushing Stepanek swishing at thin air.
The match was played under cover after some early rain, although conditions outside soon turned sunny and breezy, allowing women's top seed Maria Sharapova to make hay against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei, winning 6-1 6-4.
Still not at her best, the Russian will need to improve in the next round when she faces Germany's Sabine Lisicki, whom she beat in last year's semi-final. Lisicki knocked out up-and-coming American Sloane Stephens in three sets.
"The last two matches were tough," Sharapova, who has played three days in a row, told reporters. "You have to improve with every match."
Despite conceding his first set of the tournament, Djokovic ended the match against Stepanek like a well-oiled machine and clearly enjoyed himself as he booked a weekend off before a last-16 clash with compatriot Viktor Troicki.
"When you're playing that well you want to stay on the court," the world number one said.
"He was very aggressive so it was a tough match, but I think I played the second, third and fourth sets very well.
"He's a very tricky player, very experienced, and one of the few players who comes to the net. I love these conditions under the roof. I'll enjoy a couple of days off now - a spot of golf, and then try to improve my game for the next challenge."
Britain's sole surviving woman, Heather Watson, followed Djokovic on to Centre Court for a third-round match against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska with six-times champion Roger Federer last up against Julien Benneteau. – Reuters