Match-fixing controversy clouds start of Aussie Open

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Match-fixing controversy clouds start of Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - Andy Murray began his bid for a drought-breaking title at the Australian Open with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over Alexander Zverev, checked to see there were no urgent calls from home, and walked into the controversy over match-fixing allegations that have overshadowed the opening two days of the tournament.

“I just think that it should be tennis that does a better job of explaining ... [players] shouldn’t have to read it in the press,” Murray said Tuesday. “You have to be proactive I think with things like this and go and speak to the players rather than them reading about it in the newspapers or, you know, listening to it on the TV or the radio.”

The BBC and Buzzfeed News published reports Monday alleging match-fixing had gone unchecked in tennis. The reports alleged 16 players, all ranked in the top 50 at some stage and half of them playing at the Australian Open, had repeatedly raised suspicion because of their results and had been flagged with tennis authorities, but had not been sanctioned. No players were identified.

The governing bodies for tennis presented a unified front in rejecting the claims, and highlighted the fact five players and an official had received life bans after investigations from the Tennis Integrity Unit which was set up in 2008.

No. 2-ranked Murray, like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, thought authorities could be doing more to combat the potential problem. Murray also said it was “a little bit hypocritical” for tournaments to be sponsored by bookmaking firms - as the Australian Open is - while the authorities are trying to stamp out corruption.

Murray has the reached the final four times in Australia but lost every time, including last year to Djokovic. Murray had Amelie Mauresmo, a new mother, back in his coaching corner this week and was happy not to get any mid-match news from home. He has said he’ll leave immediately if his wife, Kim, goes into labor in London with their first child.

“I’m more excited than nervous now,” Murray, speaking in an on-court interview, told the crowd of the pending arrival. “I’m hoping my phone hasn’t been buzzing in my bag. But Kim will message my team if anything’s going on during the matches, and I’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Verdasco has knocked fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal out of the opening Grand Slam of the season, beating his fellow Spanish lefthander 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round.

It reversed an epic 5-hour, 14-minute semifinal the pair played in 2009 at Melbourne Park, which Nadal won in five sets and went on to take the title.

Verdasco clinched the fourth-set tiebreaker with an ace to send it to a fifth and deciding set, then after an exchange of breaks went ahead with a decisive break in the sixth game and held in the next to go up 5-2. He won the match in 4 hours, 41 minutes, on a service return winner. AP
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