Top-seeded Novak Djokovic defeated Radek Stepanek in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 on Friday, extending his winning streak to 17 matches at the Australian Open. At Djokovic's post-match news conference, the questions quickly turned from tennis to Lance Armstrong's confessions about doping in cycling during his television interview with Oprah Winfrey in the U.S. Thursday night.
''I think it's a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,'' said Djokovic. ''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. Djokovic will take on number 15 Stanislas Wawrinka next, after Wawrinka beat American Sam Querrey in straight sets 7-6(6), 7-5, 6-4.
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. man reached the 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 Stepanek, who mixed up the tempo with a lot of serve-and-volley and some unorthodox shot-making. 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.''
In Friday's last third-round match, fourth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain beat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, clinching the 1-hour, 57-minute match with an ace.
Elsewhere, fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic beat Austria's Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and will next play South Africa's Kevin Anderson, who beat the number 22 seeded Fernando Verdasco in five sets 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. Japan's Kei Nishikori, will face Ferrer in the fourth round, and eighth-ranked Janko Tipsarevic will face the 10th-seeded Nicolas Almagro.