Wimbledon 2014: Novak Djokovic battles his way past Radek Stepanek on Centre Court
Last Updated: 26/06/14 12:28pm
Top seed Novak Djokovic overcame the challenge of the experienced Radek Stepanek 6-4 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) to reach the third round at Wimbledon.
Djokovic prevailed in an entertaining Centre Court contest that astonishginly featured just the two breaks of serve, both managed by the Serbian as he moved into a two-set lead after just over an hour.
However Stepanek - bidding to become the oldest man to ever reach the third round at Wimbledon - stopped any thoughts of a straight sets victory for last year's beaten finalist by taking the third set in a tie-break.
The fourth also followed suit, only this time it was Djokovic who came out on top in the breaker. A challenge after a forehand passing shot finally clinched him victory after over three hours, setting up a showdown with Gilles Simon next.
The 2011 champion will be delighted to have avoided being taken into a deciding set by a dangerous opponent - Stepanek had showed there's still life in him yet with a run to the semi-finals at Queen's, including knocking out Andy Murray.
The Czech had bounced back from 5-2 down in the third set tie-break and then after two untimely slips found himself behind by the same scoreline in the fourth, only to rally to get back on level terms.
Yet a volley into the net handed a match point to his opponent behind his own serve, then Djokovic finally saw off the challenge of the 35-year-old thanks to a passing shot and the aid of technology.
"I was two sets up and had some break-point chances in the third and I should have closed it out in the third set tie-breaker, but credit to him for fighting," he said afterwards.
"He's 35 years old but he's moving very well. Grass is probably his most preferred surface. He performs really well on the big stages as you saw.
"He loves to engage the crowd, he's an entertainer, and it was fun from one side to be part of a great thrilling match, but on the other side I should not have complicated my own life this way."