Taiwanese players had mixed fortunes at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday, with Hsieh Su-wei progressing in the women’s doubles, but men’s No. 1 Lu Yen-hsun crashing out of the men’s doubles.
Hsieh and her partner, Peng Shuai of China, the No. 15 seeds, cruised past Mathilde Johansson and Pauline Parmentier of France 6-2, 6-4 in the second round of the women’s doubles, setting up a showdown with top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci of Italy in the third round.
In the men’s doubles, Lu and his partner, Go Soeda of Japan, were knocked out by Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia 6-4, 6-4.
In the men’s singles, Novak Djokovic absorbed plenty of pressure from Radek Stepanek before advancing to the fourth round, then unleashed 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, extending his winning streak to 17 matches at the Australian Open.
In the next match on Rod Laver Arena, Maria Sharapova beat Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in an unexpectedly lopsided third-round result.
Williams could consider herself fortunate — Sharapova’s opponents in her first two matches failed to win a game against the Russian star.
Three matches into the tournament and Sharapova, who pumped her arms six or seven times after she served out with an ace, has lost just four games heading into her fourth-round match against unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
“I think when we both looked at the draw, it was a matchup we were both looking forward to,” Sharapova said of Williams, a seven-time major winner. “I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis that she’s capable of producing and playing. She’s a tremendous athlete and a great champion.”
Williams did not feel like a great player yesterday.
“Definitely not my best today, but there’s always other days to play better,” she said. “I just had a lot of errors  ... that never helps.”
At Djokovic’s post-match press conference, the questions quickly turned from tennis to Armstrong’s confessions about doping in cycling during his television interview with Oprah Winfrey in the US on Thursday night.
“I think it’s a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,” world No. 1 Djokovic said. “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 had not had a blood test that could detect illegal oxygen-boosting agents for six months.
He plays No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Sam Querrey of the US 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round yesterday.
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 US man reached the fourth round at the Australian Open since 1973 — when no Americans traveled to the tournament.
During yesterday’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.”
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.
Elsewhere, fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic beat Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and next plays South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who beat No. 22 Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
Others advancing included Japan’s Kei Nishikori and No. 8-ranked Janko Tipsarevic, who has a tough next match against No. 10 Nicolas Almagro, a 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 winner over No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz.
In other women’s singles matches, Angelique Kerber survived some nervous moments before fending off teenager Madison Keys of the US 6-2, 7-5 in their third-round match, then got to blow out the candles on a cake to celebrate her 25th birthday.
Local organizers brought a cake onto the court for Kerber immediately after the match and the crowd at Rod Laver Arena sang Happy Birthday.
She blew out the candles and said thank you to the crowd and to 17-year-old Keys.
Kerber next plays No. 19 Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, who advanced after a tough 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-4 win over 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli. In the fourth round last year, Makarova beat Serena Williams and was the first of only four women to best the powerful American last year. Kerber was the last.
Fourth-seeded Angieszka Radwanska, meanwhile, won her 12th match in a row with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Britain’s Heather Watson.
“I’m extremely happy to be playing my best tennis from the beginning of the year,” said Radwanska, who won tournaments in Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia, earlier this month.
Radwanska meets 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, who beat Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-3 in a matchup featuring two Serbians who were both formerly ranked world No. 1.
Sixth-seeded Li Na advanced with a 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 27 Sorana Cirstea of Romania and next plays No. 18 Julia Goerges, who prevented an all-China fourth-round encounter by beating Zheng Jie 6-3, 1-6, 7-5.