In the best match of the tournament thus far, third-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic outlasted dangerous Czech Radek Stepanek on Friday to reach the third round at the U.S. Open.
Djokovic needed a whopping 4 hours, 44 minutes to stave off the former top-10 performer Stepanek 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) at Armstrong Stadium. The gritty Stepanek battled Djokovic every step of the way in one of the closest matches that you could ever see.
The 20-year-old Djokovic, who required treatment for his back and legs on several occasions on Day 5, used 69 winners, including 18 aces, to get past a game Stepanek, who was ranked inside the men's top 10 last year before eventually plummeting outside the top 100 because of neck and back injuries.
The two players combined for 88 unforced errors in the epic encounter, including 45 by the Czech loser. Stepanek also required some treatment during the marathon match, as he was bothered by a left leg problem at one point.
Djokovic ultimately moved into the round of 32 by floating a backhand winner to close out the hard-nosed
The world No. 3 Djokovic will meet promising Argentine Juan Martin del Potro here on Sunday.
Eighth-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo outlasted American Mardy Fish 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, while 12th-seeded Croat Ivan Ljubicic moved on with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) decision against Romanian Andrei Pavel.
Robredo blew some match points in the fourth set against Fish, who then turned around to blow a seemingly-comfortable 4-1 advantage in the final set. The Spaniard advanced in 3 hours, 29 minutes with the help of five service breaks. Fish swatted 20 aces among his 70 winners, but the big-serving American also piled up 69 unforced errors, compared to 33 errors for Robredo, who settled for 39 winners.
Fish was last week's
The athletic Robredo will face Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the third round here.
A flat Marat Safin was ousted from the draw by capable Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, as the 25th-seeded big Russian suffered a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 setback. The former world No. 1 and two-time major titlist Safin captured the U.S. Open back in 2000 by pasting the legendary Pete Sampras in the final.
Another former No. 1 avoided an upset, as 17th-seeded Spaniard Carlos Moya handled Russian Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. The veteran Moya is a two-time major finalist, including a French Open title in 1998.
Twentieth-seeded Argentine slugger Juan Ignacio Chela dismissed American Wayne Odesnik 6-3, 6-1, 7-5, while the 6-foot-5 del Potro knocked out 31st-seeded Austrian lefty Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
Additional second-round wins came for American Robby Ginepri and the aforementioned Gulbis. Ginepri, who soared all the way into the semifinals here in 2005, lambasted Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to setup a third-rounder against Wawrinka.