Wizards

No American men left in Australian Open 4th round

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No American men left in Australian Open 4th round

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Novak Djokovic slammed Lance Armstrong's long-delayed doping admissions, saying the seven-time Tour de France winner is a disgrace to cycling and ``should suffer for his lies.''

At the same time, the No. 1-ranked man in tennis says the drug testing program in his sport is ``good,'' while conceding that for the last six months he hasn't had a blood test in the anti-doping program.

``I think it's a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,'' Djokovic said of Armstrong after his straight-set win over Radek Stepanek. ``It would be ridiculous for him to decline and refuse all the charges because it has been proven. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story.''

The Armstrong doping saga also raised questions over drug testing in tennis, and Djokovic said he supported the International Tennis Federation's current program.

``At least from my perspective, it's really good,'' he said, outlining the current regime where tennis players have to give anti-doping authorities details of their whereabouts each day, in case they're required for out-of-competition testing.

Djokovic admitted that the blood tests that can detect the presence of EPO, a known oxygen booster in the blood which could help a tennis player cope better in long rallies and extended matches, have been a rarity for him lately.

He was asked to respond to reports that ITF records show that in 2011, only 18 blood tests were taken of the top players.

``Yeah, I wasn't tested with blood for last six, seven months,'' Djokovic said. ``It was more regular ... two, three years ago. I don't know the reason why they stopped it.''

Maria Sharapova said after her win over Venus Williams later Friday that the Armstrong revelations are ``just a really sad story, sad for that sport.''

``I'm happy that our sport is as clean as it can be and that we're constantly tested,'' she said. ``So as long as we're getting tested, whatever it takes, urine, blood, we're all here to make the sport as clean as it can be.''

Djokovic also said he's confident of the integrity of tennis.

``I believe tennis players are (among) the cleanest athletes in the world,'' Djovovic said. ``So as long as we keep it that way, I have no complaints about testing.''

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SILVER LININGS: No American men reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second consecutive year, but Sam Querrey doesn't think it's necessarily a reflection on the state of American tennis.

The top American player, No. 13 John Isner, pulled out before the tournament began with a knee injury and veteran Mardy Fish, currently ranked 27th, skipped the Australian Open as he continues to recover from heart problems.

``If they were here, hopefully one of them would have made it,'' Querrey said.

Querrey, seeded 20th, was the last American man standing in Melbourne until he lost in the third round Friday to 15th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

``We're doing our best,'' Querrey said. ``I don't think the state of American tennis is poor, you know, I think it's pretty solid if you compare it to most countries. You can argue we're in the top five overall, maybe.''

The U.S. didn't have any men in the fourth round last year, either. And that was with Isner, Fish and the now-retired Andy Roddick playing in the tournament.

No American man has won the Australian Open since Andre Agassi in 2003, and no one has won a major since Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open.

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EXPENSIVE OUTBURST: Jerzy Janowicz's on-court meltdown at the Australian Open is going to cost him.

The 24th-seeded Pole became irate over a line call during his second-round match against India's Somdev Devvarman and repeatedly screamed at the chair umpire, spat on the court and hit the umpire's chair with his racket.

The tantrum went viral on YouTube with more than 750,000 views in two days.

Janowicz won't escape without punishment, however. On Friday, he was fined $2,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Janowicz was incredulous when told by The Associated Press that he had received a fine.

``For sure I will not believe this because I didn't say anything bad,'' he said. ``I didn't do anything bad. I was just shouting. You get fined for shouting?''

The fine is the highest of the 2013 Australian Open tournament thus far, but it could have been worse. Last year, David Nalbandian received an $8,000 fine for throwing water at a staff member at Melbourne Park after another disputed line call.

Marcos Baghdatis, meanwhile, was penalized just $1,250 for smashing four rackets during a changeover at last year's tournament - an outburst that also became a hit on YouTube, with more than 1.4 million views - and counting.

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NO MORE RACKET BUSTING: Has fatherhood changed Marcos Baghdatis? No racket rage this year. No record-long matches.

Baby Zahara was born Oct. 20, shortly after Baghdatis married Croatian tennis player Karolina Sprem in July.

``Everything is good'' on the baby front, said Baghdatis, who is 27 years old and ranked 28th. ``I miss her when I'm away for so long.''

Baghdatis will be able to return home soon. He lost his third-round match to No. 4 David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

The spirited Cypriot said that he regretted last year's outburst.

``Everybody does some stupid things in their life. Mine was last year when I broke those four rackets,'' he said, adding that fatherhood has little to do with this year's perspective on racket abuse.

``I don't think it's because I came a father that I didn't do it this year,'' he said.

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CELEBRITY COACH: Li Na's new coach has been the talk of the tournament - and she fears other members of her team are getting jealous.

The former French Open champion hired Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin's former coach, after Wimbledon last year to help raise her game. The Chinese star hasn't reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event since her breakthrough win at Roland Garros in 2011.

The new partnership has brought immediate results: Li has won two titles and amassed a 28-8 win-loss record.

She's also into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-1 on Friday, and hasn't dropped a set at this year's tournament.

Li is happy with her new celebrity coach, but is tired of fielding questions about him. So tired, in fact, she invited Rodriguez down to the court after her victory to answer questions himself in her post-match TV interview.

``After he was (coaching) me, every time in the press conference, ask about Carlos. So Carlos, you should stand here and answer some questions,'' she said.

Rodriguez, however, had already slipped out of Rod Laver Arena. ``He's just gone, I can't even see him,'' Li said, laughing.

Rodriguez may not be able to take all the credit for Li's strong play at the Australian Open this year. Two years ago, she complained that her husband's snoring had kept her awake the night before her semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki - a match she won to reach her first Grand Slam final.

This year, she's getting more sleep. ``I am staying in a suite - two rooms!'' she tweeted on Friday.

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Associated Press writers Dennis Passa and Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.

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Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth and final foul with the score tied. 

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for.

He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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