London: Top seed Novak Djokovic had to dig deep to reach the Wimbledon third round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5) victory over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek on Wednesday.
Djokovic had dropped just five games in a ruthless first round demolition of Andrey Golubev, but the 2011 Wimbledon champion was pushed far harder by the canny Stepanek on Centre Court.
The 27-year-old Serb, beaten by Andy Murray in last year`s final, surrendered a set for the first time in the tournament after squandering a 5-2 lead in the third set tie-break.
But he recovered his composure to finish off the 35-year-old, who has now lost 11 of their 12 meetings, in three hours and 17 minutes and will face French world number 44 Gilles Simon for a place in the last 16.
Djokovic`s victory ensured the world number two avoided the fate that befell his coach Boris Becker in 1987 when the German became the only male top seed to lose in the Wimbledon second round.