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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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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
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- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.