Djokovic survives; Ferrer out
A review of the men's singles action on day three of Wimbledon, including a hard-fought victory for Novak Djokovic and a defeat for David Ferrer.
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Top seed and title favourite Novak Djokovic had to dig deep into his reserves to fend off a determined Radek Stepanek and reach the third round at Wimbledon.
A win against Andy Murray and run to the semi-finals at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club marked Stepanek down as a player in form on grass, and he tested Djokovic close to the limit.
Eventually the Serbian found a way to beat perhaps the most dangerous of the unseeded players in the draw, coming through 6-4 6-3 6-7 (7/5) 7-6 (7/5) on Centre Court.
Stepanek slipped twice in the fourth-set tie-break to give up the early advantage, which he clawed back but then handed straight back to Djokovic.
At 5-2 it looked all over, but Stepanek had trailed by the same margin in the third-set tie-break and remarkably, taking successive points off his opponent's serve, he got back on level terms again.
Yet a volley into the net handed Djokovic a match point behind his own serve, and when the 2011 champion went across court with a forehand Stepanek feared the worst as it landed.
The ball was called out by a line judge, but Djokovic challenged that verdict immediately. Stepanek, engaging in the mild farce he peppered the match with, got down on his knees, hands clasped together, to offer a prayer.
But there was no salvation for the 35-year-old Czech, who reached the quarter-finals in 2006, as Hawk-Eye showed the shot had clipped the outside of the line for a clean winner.
The pair embraced warmly at the net and Stepanek's hope of an upset was gone.
Djokovic said: "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'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."
Meanwhile David Ferrer's run of 10 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals ended when he was beaten by Andrey Kuznetsov.
The Russian, who won the junior title at the All England Club five years ago, edged a tight contest 6-7 (5/7) 6-0 3-6 6-3 6-2 for his first ever five-set win and first victory over a top-10 player.
It was a hugely impressive win from the 23-year-old, ranked 118th, not least because of Ferrer's consistency at the slams in recent years.
The seventh seed lost before the last eight at a slam for the first time since the US Open in 2011, and it was his earliest defeat for four and a half years.
Ferrer had been a doubt for the tournament because of stomach problems that forced him to pull out of the warm-up tournament in 's-Hertogenbosch last week.
The Spaniard refused to use that as an excuse, saying: "The match, I lost because my opponent, he was better. I think I did a good game. But he surprised me and he played very good. A lot of winners."
Grigor Dimitrov had a comfortable ride into the next round.
The number 11 seed's straight-sets triumph over Australian Luke Saville was almost as routine as defending champion Andy Murray's 6-1 6-1 6-0 success over Blaz Rola, as he breezed through 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Centre Court.
Latvia's Ernest Gulbis, the 12th seed, lost out to world number 90 Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7/5). A year ago, Ukrainian Stakhovsky caused a sensation on the opening Wednesday of Wimbledon by beating Roger Federer, and he made sure to mark the anniversary in style.
Sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych had his difficulties but scraped a 4-6 7-6 (7/5) 7-6 (7/3) 6-1 victory over Australian Bernard Tomic.
Qualifier Jimmy Wang earned a rousing 7-6 (7/1) 6-2 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 triumph against the quarter-finalist of two years ago Mikhail Youzhny. The 17th seed could not handle the world number 147 from Chinese Taipei who won three preliminary matches to reach the main draw.
Big-serving South African Kevin Anderson moved past Edouard Roger-Vasselin in four sets, a 7-6 (7/0) 1-6 6-3 6-4 winner.
Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov dismissed German Benjamin Becker 6-7 (7/4) 7-6 (7/0) 6-3 6-4, the 21st seed marching on with little issue.
Becker's compatriot Tim Puetz gained little joy from 16th seed Fabio Fognini, the Italian driving through 2-6 6-4 7-6 (8/6) 6-3.
Outspoken Australian Marinko Matosevic enjoyed a fine run at Queen's and was aiming to reproduce that attacking form at Wimbledon.
The Bosnia-born 23-year-old was unable to edge out wily Jeremy Chardy however, his opponent grinding through 6-7 (7/5) 7-6 (9/7) 7-6 (11/9) 4-6 7-5.
Wild-card entrant and former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis was unable to reach the third round, overcome by Argentinian Leonardo Mayer.
The South American world number 64 undid Cypriot crowd favourite Baghdatis 7-6 (7/4) 4-6 6-1 6-4.
Wang will face either Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or American Sam Querrey at the last-32 stage, but that match was still up for grabs when play was suspended at 9.22pm due to fading light, with the pair locked at 9-9 in a deciding set.
Both men also needed two days to finish their first-round matches, after rain brought an early end to play on Monday, and will return on Thursday to joust for the two-game cushion they require for victory.