The six-time men’s champion survived a huge scare, while Djokovic recovered from being a set down to beat Radek Stepanek
LONDON: Roger Federer kept his dreams of equalling Pete Sampras’s record of seven Wimbledon titles narrowly alive on Friday as top seeds Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova also reached the last 16.
Six-time champion Federer survived a huge scare, coming within just two points of crashing to his worst Wimbledon defeat in 10 years before battling from two sets down to beat French 29th seed Julien Benneteau.
Federer clinched an eighth career fightback from two sets in arrears to win 4-6, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 and will face unseeded Belgian Xavier Malisse for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Swiss star, who won the last of his record 16 Grand Slam titles at the 2010 Australian Open, was staring at his earliest defeat at the All England Club since a shock first round exit to Mario Ancic in 2002.
Defending champion Djokovic avoided another Czech Republic Centre Court ambush with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over veteran Radek Stepanek.
French 18th seed Richard Gasquet, a semi-finalist in 2007, beat 12th seed Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to claim a first win over the Spaniard in four meetings.
He will tackle German 31st seed Florian Mayer who edged Polish qualifier Jerzy Janowicz 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Xavier Malisse of Belgium, who reached the last four in 2002, defeated Spanish 17th seed Fernando Verdasco 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a date with Federer.
Denis Istomin became the first Uzbek to make the last 16 when he defeated Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5).
He will face Russian 26th seed Mikhail Youzhny who saw off Serb eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Women’s top seed Sharapova cruised to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Taiwain’s Hsieh Su-Wei as the world number one set up a Wimbledon rematch with Sabine Lisicki.
Sharapova breezed past world number 63 Hsieh despite some serious issues with her serve in the windy conditions on Court One.
The French Open champion’s reward for a typically gritty display is a last 16 meeting with German 15th seed Lisicki in a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon semi-final clash which the Russian won in straight sets.
“Playing Lisicki will be a tough one,” said the Russian.