Monday, December 11, 2017
Sports

Federer: Time to start naming names in match-fixing reports

MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer has heard enough speculation about match-fixing in tennis. If players are suspected of corruption, he wants names.

Federer was responding to reports by BBC and BuzzFeed News published Monday that tennis authorities have suppressed evidence of match-fixing and overlooked suspected cases involving players ranked in the top 50, including Grand Slam singles and doubles winners.

The reports said that none of these players had faced sanctions, and more than half would be playing at this year's Australian Open, which started Monday. The players weren't identified by name.

"I would love to hear names," Federer said after beating Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. "Then at least it's concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which Slam?

"It's super serious and it's super important to maintain the integrity of our sport. So how high up does it go? The higher it goes, the more surprised I would be."

The allegations were based on files the news agencies reported had been leaked "from inside the sport" showing evidence of suspected match-fixing orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy that had been uncovered during an ATP investigation of a 2007 match in Sopot, Poland, involving suspiciously high levels of betting.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic said he doubted the problem extended to the top level of the sport, and he pointed to the enhanced monitoring systems put in place.

"We have, I think, a sport (that has) evolved and upgraded our programs and authorities to deal with these particular cases," he said. "There's no real proof or evidence yet of any active players (being involved in match-fixing), for that matter. As long as it's like that, it's just speculation."

Djokovic did, however, confirm that members of his support team were approached about throwing a match in Russia in 2007 for $200,000.

"I was not approached directly. I was approached through people that were working with me at that time," he said. "Of course, we (rejected) it right away. It didn't even get to me — the guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn't even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it."

Venus bounced

Venus Williams tried to rally, winning two games and getting another break-point chance after falling a set and 5-0 behind, before her 16th trip to the Australian Open finished in a first-round loss to Johanna Konta.

The 35-year-old seven-time major winner trudged off Rod Laver Arena on the second day of the tournament after a surprising 6-4, 6-2 loss to the No. 47-ranked Konta, a Sydney-born British player who was making her debut in the main draw at the Australian Open.

Williams had a career comeback last season, winning three titles and finishing the year in the top 10 for the first time since 2010. In 2016, she's 0-2.

No. 3 Garbine Muguruza needed an hour to beat Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit 6-0, 6-4, No. 11 Timea Bacsinszky advanced over Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 7-5 and No. 15 Madison Keys, a semifinalist here last year, had to save set points in the first before beating Zarina Diyas 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.

On the men's side, No. 13 Milos Raonic followed his win over Roger Federer in the final of the Brisbane International tuneup event with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Lucas Pouille.

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