World number one Novak Djokovic was forced to scrap for every point but advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-3 7-5 victory over Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic on Friday.
The 34-year-old Stepanek, ranked 34th in the world, did little wrong in an entertaining clash of inspired shotmaking and ball-chasing, but the Serb's court craft, service return and retrieval skills were simply too good in the end.
The top seep is seeking to become the first man to win three successive Australian Open titles since the tennis went professional in 1969. Djokovic will now meet either big-serving American Sam Querrey or Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Alastair Himmer)