Melbourne, Australia (Sports Network) - Top seed and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open on Friday.
The three-time overall Aussie Open titlist became the first man to reach the round of 16 at this 2013 fortnight with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Czech Davis Cup hero Radek Stepanek at Rod Laver Arena.
"Well, yes, definitely," Djokovic said when asked if this was his toughest match thus far. "I mean, I wasn't expecting an easy match coming into the third round and playing a seeded player; somebody that has a lot of experience playing on the tour."
The Serbian star broke the 31st-seeded Stepanek once in each set and fired 37 winners en route to victory.
Djokovic, who also won the title at Melbourne Park in 2008, is bidding to become the first three-peat champion in the Open Era at this Grand Slam event. He will next play Swiss slugger Stanislas Wawrinka, the 15th seed who straight-setted 20th-seeded American Sam Querrey, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5, 6-4. The 6-foot-6 Querrey was the last American standing in the men's draw.
Meanwhile, gritty fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer, fresh off his title in Auckland last week, whipped 28th-seeded former Aussie Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 and fifth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych trounced helpless 26th-seeded Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Up next for Ferrer will be 16th-seeded rising Japanese Kei Nishikori, while the formidable Czech Berdych will meet tall South African Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.
Other winners Friday were Djokovic's eighth-seeded countryman Janko Tipsarevic, 10th-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, Nishikori and Anderson.
Tipsarevic rallied to beat 32nd-seeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 and reach the fourth round Down Under for the first time in his career. In doing so, he joined Djokovic as the second Serb to reach the round of 16 at all four major events.
Up next for Tipsarevic, who improved to an impressive 17-8 in his career five-set matches, will be Almagro. The sweet-swinging Spaniard topped towering 24th-seeded Pole Jerzy Janowicz 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.
Nishikori advanced with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Russian Evgeny Donskoy. Last year, Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park in the Open Era.
Anderson, meanwhile, fought back to oust 22nd-seeded Spanish southpaw Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2. Anderson is the first South African man to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Wayne Ferreira reached the 2003 Aussie Open semifinals.