Djokovic, Sharapova avoid upsets
Wimbledon top seeds Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova brought a little sanity back to the All England Club yesterday when they reached the last 16.
Defending champion Djokovic avoided another Czech Republic Centre Court ambush with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over veteran Radek Stepanek.
Djokovic, playing on the same court where Rafael Nadal had been stunned by world 100 Czech Lukas Rosol on Thursday night, overcame dropping his first set of the tournament to see off 33-year-old Stepanek.
The Serb goes on to play compatriot Victor Troicki, who put out Argentine 15th seed Juan Monaco 7-5, 7-5, 6-3, for a place in the quarter-finals.
Troicki will be playing in his first last 16 tie at Wimbledon.
Djokovic found wily Stepanek, a quarter-finalist in 2006, hard to read in the first set as the Czech kept the champion pinned back by serving and volleying, almost an extinct technique on the slowing All England Club lawns.
But he won 18 of the next 24 games to storm to victory, taking another step closer to a sixth career Grand Slam title.
“I had break points in the first set but he came up with the big serves. It was a tough match, but I played really well in the second, third and fourth sets,” he said.
The Serb insisted Nadal’s fate, which was also played out under the Centre Court roof, had not entered his thoughts.
“I was focused on my own game. I knew Radek is a tricky opponent and very experienced,” he said.
“He’s one of the few players who comes to the net after every first serve. He has the variety of game to hurt anyone.”
Sharapova cruised to a 6-1, 6-4 third round victory over Taiwain’s Hsieh Su-Wei as the world number one set up a Wimbledon rematch with Sabine Lisicki.
Sharapova breezed past world number 63 Hsieh despite some serious issues with her serve in the windy conditions on Court One.
The French Open champion’s reward for a typically gritty display is a last 16 meeting with German 15th seed Lisicki in a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon semi-final clash which the Russian won in straight sets.
Former world number one Kim Clijsters, a semi-finalist in 2003 and 2006 and playing her last Wimbledon before retirement, reached the last 16 when Russian Vera Zvonareva quit with breathing problems.
Twelfth seed Zvonareva, the 2010 runner-up to Serena Williams, was trailing 6-3, 4-3 at the time.
Clijsters goes on to face German eighth seed Angelique Kerber who reached the last 16 for the first time with a 6-2, 6-3 win over American 28th seed Christina McHale.
Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a quarter-finalist in 2008 amd 2009, crushed Britain’s Heather Watson 6-0, 6-2.
Other results: (Men) Federer bt Bennetteau 4-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-1. (Women) Peng bt Rus 6-1, 6-2; Giorgi bt Petrova 6-3, 7-6.