Novak Djokovic moves into 4th round
Novak Djokovic repelled a challenge from Radek Stepanek to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open and still had plenty left over to unleash some stinging shots at Lance Armstrong after the doping-tainted cyclist's long-expected confession.
Djokovic broke the 34-year-old, 34th-ranked Stepanek late in each set of a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 win Friday, extending his winning streak to 17 matches at the Australian Open.
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At Djokovic's post-match news conference, the questions quickly turned from tennis to another sporting star -- Armstrong's confessions about doping in cycling during his television interview with Oprah Winfrey.
"I think it's a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this," said Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked man in tennis. "He cheated the sport. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story."
Djokovic, who has five Grand Slam titles, said the doping program in tennis was sufficient to catch the cheats, though he conceded he hasn't had a blood test that could detect illegal oxygen-boosting agents for six months.
Querrey's loss meant that for the second consecutive year, there will be no American men in the fourth round at Melbourne Park. Last year was the first time no U.S. player reached the men's fourth round at the Australian Open since 1973 -- when no Americans traveled to the tournament.
During Friday's match, Djokovic was troubled at times against the wily veteran Stepanek, who mixed up the tempo with a lot of serve-and-volley and some unorthodox shot-making.
"Absolutely it was great. Great match and great fun," Djokovic said. "It's always tricky to play Radek. He's a talented player. Skillful player."
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Told about the statistics -- Stepanek won 36 of the 67 points he played at the net -- Djokovic wasn't surprised at all.
"He's skillful on the net and he was not giving me a lot of rhythm -- he was changing up the pace on the ball," Djokovic said. "Nowadays everything is based on the baseline. It's nice to see somebody coming to the net."
Stepanek had Djokovic smiling and acknowledging his winners on some points, frustrated him on others with his constant, stay-in-the-point defense, and even had chair umpire Carlos Bernardes grinning with his over-the-shoulder winner to save one match point near the end.
Other men advancing Friday were South Africa's Kevin Anderson, who beat No. 22 Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, Japan's Kei Nishikori, No. 8-ranked Janko Tipsarevic and No. 10 Nicolas Almagro, who beat No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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