Vaudeville act by Stepanek but Djokovic wins

TORONTO • Novak Djokovic stopped tennis showman Radek Stepanek on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-4 victory to march into the quarter-finals of the Toronto Masters.

The top seed and three-time Canadian title-holder won in a light-hearted contest against one of the characters of the ATP Tour as the 37-year-old Stepanek kept the crowd entertained with extravagant shot-making.

Several times, the Czech took victory laps around the court after hitting winners, often to the delight of Djokovic, who now stands at 12-1 in head-to-head meetings with his frequent training partner.

"It's quite enjoyable to play Radek, he's such an entertainer," the Serb said. "We are all grateful to him for staying in the sport for such a long time."

Djokovic was set to face another Czech opponent, Tomas Berdych, early this morning (Singapore time) after the fifth seed got past American Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4.

Second seed Stan Wawrinka matched his best result at the event with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 win over American Jack Sock.

It was the first time in five years that the double Grand Slam champion had reached the last eight in Canada. He went out in an opening match a year ago to Nick Kyrgios and got to the third round in 2014.

The 31-year-old Swiss saved all three break points he faced against the 16th-seeded Sock.

The first set provided a challenge, with Wawrinka winning it in a tie-break to seize the momentum.

"You need to be careful in tie-breaks, and really focus," he said. "I feel positive now after this win - let's see what happens."

In another last-16 match, South African Kevin Anderson overhauled 12th seed Bernard Tomic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours. Anderson fired 26 aces and saved eight of nine break points.

Japan's third seed Kei Nishikori also reached the quarters and has yet to drop a set as an injury from Wimbledon fades away. Asia's top player beat American Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-4.

"I think it's good, not maybe 100 per cent yet but feeling pretty strong," world No. 6 Nishikori said of a rib problem.



S-finals, StarHub Ch201, tomorrow, 3am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Vaudeville act by Stepanek but Djokovic wins'. Print Edition | Subscribe