By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic was dragged into a dour mid-match scrap by Ivan Dodig, but pounded the dogged Croat in the last two sets to win 7-5 6-7 6-0 6-2 and reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The 2008 champion appeared in cruise control as he broke Dodig late to seal the first set but was snapped out of his reverie as his 81st-ranked opponent battled like a streetfighter to win the second set tiebreaker 10-8.
Normal service resumed as Djokovic mowed through the next eight games before sealing the match with a thumping serve in the corner that Dodig did well to get a racket to.
"Well, you know maybe the positive thing about this match is I was challenged, pushed to the limits in the first two sets and stayed around three, three and a half hours on the court," said Djokovic, who was roused by a raucous Serbian contingent in the crowd at Hisense Arena.
"Definitely wasn't my best ... Sometimes your legs aren't listening to you."
When Djokovic clubbed a forehand long to concede the second set, Dodig leapt into the air with clenched fist and roared like a man possessed.
The jubilation was short-lived, however, as Djokovic found his usual lethal line and closed out the match with an exhibition of clean hitting, mixing bludgeoning crosscourt winners with drop shots finessed from the baseline.
Djokovic's match against a Bosnian-born opponent at the 2009 tournament was the catalyst for a violent brawl between rival fans at a beer-garden at Melbourne Park but on Wednesday the match passed without incident.
"From the fans' perspective, I think they had fun," said Djokovic, who will play Davis Cup team mate Viktor Troicki in the next round.
"This tournament has a lot of different colors, nations, and sometimes it feels like you're on a football match with the support.
"For us it's unusual and sometimes good to feel that. Keeps you going even more."
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)