Even by his own lofty standards, Novak Djokovic put in a Wimbledon performance that was close to perfect.
The top-ranked Serb played near-flawless tennis to reach the fourth round of the grass-court Grand Slam early today (NZ time), going close to a full match without making an unforced error in dispatching Jeremy Chardy of France 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
By the time he finally did make a mistake, it was the simplest sort. At 4-1, 40-0 in the third set, Djokovic double-faulted. Until that point, he had lost just three points on his own serve.
It was a temporary glitch, though, as he closed out the game on the next point, and wrapped up the match in just 87 minutes.
"Everything went my way," Djokovic said. "I did everything I wanted to do."
He finished with 38 winners and just three unforced errors in a masterful display that cemented his status as the favorite to win a second Wimbledon title, having seen seven-time champion Roger Federer and two-time winner Rafael Nadal already knocked out.
He will next face Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old German who is enjoying a late career revival and beat Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.
"He's playing maybe the best tennis ever," Djokovic said. "I don't see any clear favorite to be honest."
Most fans probably do, especially after Djokovic picked apart Chardy so convincingly. Even though fourth-seeded David Ferrer managed to advance in five sets and remain on course for a semifinal against Djokovic, most fans are probably already penciling the Serb's name in the final.
"Not many times it happens on the grass against a big server (that) you get to play this well and return this well," Djokovic said. "I managed to find the right balance."
Ferrer had a much tougher time, struggling with blisters on his foot and the tenacious game of Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine before winning 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Top-ranked Serena Williams cruised into the fourth round, demolishing 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-0.
Earlier, Petra Kvitova avoided becoming the latest former champion to be knocked out in the first week, rallying from a break down in the final set to beat Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Last year's runner-up, Agnieszka Radwanska, also advanced, while Centre Court featured another upset when ninth-seeded Richard Gasquet lost to Bernard Tomic, the Australian whose father has been barred from tournaments because of an assault case.
Kvitova's third-round match was halted yesterday with Makarova up 2-1 in the decider, but Kvitova broke right back when play resumed and won the next two games. After losing her own serve, the Czech broke again for 5-3 and converted her third match point with a forehand winner.
"I should go for every point and play my game," Kvitova said. "I played quite aggressively. That was the key."
Radwanska held off a hard-serving performance by American teenager Madison Keys to win 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. Radwanska needed five match points before sealing the victory when Keys, who finished with 15 aces, sent a return wide.
Tomic, who in 2011 as an 18-year-old qualifier became the youngest Wimbledon quarterfinalist since Boris Becker in 1985, beat Gasquet 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Tomic's father and coach, John, is accused of head-butting his son's training partner before a tournament in Madrid and has been barred from even buying a ticket to Wimbledon. However, Tomic said he's still getting advice and help from his father.
"He's helping me at this tournament," Tomic said. "I'm not doing it on my own. My dad is still involved. That's why I've gotten to where I am in this tournament."
Former runner-up Tomas Berdych and No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro also advanced, although the latter said he would need to see a doctor after injuring his ankle and knee in a scary late fall during his 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-0 win over Grega Zemlja of Slovenia.
Del Potro hurt his left leg when chasing down a drop shot in the third set, skidding awkwardly on the grass and tumbling face first.
"It was really painful. I was a little scared at that moment," del Potro said. "Now I start to feel something in my knee and my ankle, as well. I will check with the doctor very soon."
As is traditional on the middle Saturday of the tournament, the Royal Box on Centre Court was filled with invited sports stars, this year mainly British gold-medal winners from the London Olympics. Among those getting the biggest ovation from the crowd were cyclists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, as well as Murray, who donned a suit and tie to make a brief appearance in the box to celebrate his singles gold medal won on Centre Court.
Laura Robson then made it another good day for the home crowd when she became the first British woman since Sam Smith in 1998 to reach the fourth round.
Helped by a crucial overturned call, Robson rallied from a set and a break down to beat Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Erakovic served for the match in the second set, only for Robson to break back. Having then earned a set point at 6-5, Robson barely got a return back that looped high and just caught the edge of the line, but was called out before Erakovic could smack a winner. Robson successfully challenged the call and the point was replayed, with Erakovic double-faulting to hand her opponent the set.
Robson jumped out to 4-0 in the decider, and clinched the victory with a forehand winner.
"I was getting my butt kicked basically (in the first set)," Robson said. "So I just thought, just going to try as best as I can, work as hard as possible and just stick with it until she starts to get nervous, which is what happened."
Igor Sijsling of Netherlands retired against Croatia's Ivan Dodig when trailing 6-0, 6-1, 1-0, the 13th retirement or walkover of the tournament. That equals a Wimbledon record from 2008.