Novak Djokovic didn't get everything his own way against Radek Stepanek despite a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 win Friday as he advanced to the fourth round and extended his winning streak to 17 matches at the Australian Open.
Djokovic broke the 34-year-old, No. 34-ranked Stepanek late in each set, but was troubled at times against a wily veteran who mixed up the tempo with a lot of serve-and-volley and some unorthodox shot-making.
"Absolutely it was great. Great match and great fun," Djokovic said. "It's always tricky to play Radek. He's a talented player. Skillful player."
Told about the statistics - Stepanek won 36 of the 67 points he played at the net - Djokovic wasn't surprised at all.
"He's skillful on the net and he was not giving me a lot of rhythm - he was changing up the pace on the ball," Djokovic said.
"Nowadays everything is based on the baseline. It's nice to see somebody coming to the net."
Stepanek had Djokovic smiling and acknowledging his winners on some points, frustrated him on others with his constant, stay-in-the-point defense, and even had chair umpire Carlos Bernardes grinning with his over-the-shoulder winner to save one match point near the end.
Djokovic, who has won the title at Melbourne Park in 2008, 2011 and last year, is hoping to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles. He will next play either American Sam Querrey or Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round on Sunday.