WIMBLEDON, England — Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic overcame an onslaught of volleys by Radek Stepanek Wednesday to move to the third round of Wimbledon.
Serbia’s Djokovic beat Stepanek of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5) on Centre Court at the All England Club in southwest London. The 35-year-old Stepanek, the oldest man in the second round, rushed to the net 74 times, winning the point 62 percent of the time.
“He moves really well at the net,” Djokovic said in a televised interview after he beat his friend and frequent training partner. “He was reading my passing shots really well.”
Earlier, defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, five-time winner Venus Williams and No. 2 Li Na also advanced.
Briton Murray defeated Blaz Rola of Slovenia 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 in a Court No. 1 match watched by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who had left the Royal Box on Centre Court to watch the 27-year-old play on Wimbledon’s second-biggest show court.
“I wanted to make sure here that when I had the momentum, when I was on top, that I finished the set off,” Murray said in a press conference. “I did that well today,” in contrast to the French Open, where he survived two five-set matches en route to a semifinals loss to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
After winning the first two sets, Djokovic had been two points away from winning the match at 5-all in the tie-break, when he handed Stepanek a set point after falling on the grass while trying to retrieve a forehand down the line. A backhand error gave Stepanek the set.
Djokovic saved two break points in the fourth set, clenching fist as he looked at his coach, former champion Boris Becker. In the tie-break, Djokovic led 5-2 when he let Stepanek back into the match with a forehand long in front of an open court. A volley in the net handed Djokovic his first match point, which he converted with a passing shot.
“I should not have complicated my life in this way,” said Djokovic, who had come to Wimbledon after a loss to Nadal in the French Open finals. Djokovic, a six-time major champion who has won all three majors except Roland Garros, didn’t play any grass-courts events, and last week withdrew at the last minute from an exhibition event in London because of a lingering wrist injury he’d struggled with earlier in the year.
Williams hit 46 winners in her 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 defeat of Kurumi Nara of Japan. The American had been down 3-0 in the first set and 4-1 in the tie-break before she took control.
The oldest player left in the women’s draw at 34, Williams advanced to the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time since last year’s Australian Open. She plays 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova next after the sixth-seeded Czech defeated Germany’s Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-0.
Williams is making her 17th Wimbledon appearance where her 73-11 record is the best of any active player. She said in 2011 that she has Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that can cause extreme fatigue and joint pain and affect internal organs, according to Arthritis Research U.K.
“My whole goal is just to keep playing and stay as healthy as I can,” Williams said in a press conference Thursday. “I know I’ll have to get out there and play better” than Kvitova, who has won three of her four matches against Williams.
China’s Li, the reigning Australian Open champion, defeated Yvonne Meusburger of Austria 6-2, 6-2. Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat Australia’s Casey Dellacqua, 6-4, 6-0. Former top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark eased past Britain’s Naomi Broady, 6-3, 6-2.
The eighth seed, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, a former world No. 1 and twice Australian Open champion, lost to Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia in three sets. Azaranka, who is returning from a foot injury after four months away from the women’s tour, withdrew prior to the second round last year.
No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain became the highest seeded man to go out in a five-set loss to Russian Andrey Kuznetsov. Grigor Dimitrov, the 11th seed from Bulgaria who won a grass-court event at Queen’s Club in London before Wimbledon, beat Australian Luke Saville in straight sets.
No. 12 Ernests Gulbis of Latvia lost to unseeded Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Gulbis reached the semifinals of the French Open this month, where he was beaten by Djokovic. Stakhovsky beat seven-time winner Roger Federer in the second round last year on a day of dramatic exits including former champions Maria Sharapova and Lleyton Hewitt.