Novak Djokovic remains on course for third successive Australian Open title

World number one in entertaining win over Radek Stepanek

World number one Novak Djokovic remained on course for a third successive Australian Open title after an entertaining win over Radek Stepanek.

Stepanek threw some different challenges at the world number one - charging the net on 67 occasions - but Djokovic was still too strong, winning 6-4 6-3 7-5 in two hours 22 minutes.

The contest featured a host of wonderful rallies with both players pushed to the limit and Djokovic admitted it was enjoyable to play in.

"It was a great match, great fun," he said.

"He is a very talented player, very skilful. He made a lot of great first volleys and made me play the extra ball.

"He was chipping and charging, not a lot of players do this any more. A lot of the players stay on the baseline."

Djokovic has looked good in the first week and will play either Sam Querrey or Stanislas Wawrinka in round four.

"I have played well in the first few rounds, slowly getting into my rhythm," he said.

"I can play better but I cannot be dissatisfied with my performances."

The first two sets were similar - Stepanek holding his own before Djokovic struck at key times.

The top seed broke through in the 10th game to claim the opener when Stepanek netted a makeable volley and a wonderful backhand pass handed him a 5-3 advantage in the second.

It remained on serve in the third until 5-5 when Stepanek dumped a weak backhand into the net at 15-40.

Eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic won through to a meeting with Nicolas Almagro after prevailing in another five-set thriller.

The Serbian, who was taken all the way by Lukas Lacko on Wednesday, saw off Frenchman Julien Benneteau 3-6 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3.

Spaniard Almagro, seeded number 10, had a much easier time of it against Jerzy Janowicz, winning 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/4) 6-1.

Kei Nishikori ended the run of Russian Evgeny Donskoy 7-6 (7/3) 6-2 6-3 and awaits the winner of the clash between fourth seed David Ferrer and Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.

Fernando Verdasco is out, though, going down in five sets to big-serving South African Kevin Anderson.

PA

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