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20 Jan, 2016 16:13

Sharapova progresses at Australian Open; Murray shares concerns over match-fixing

Sharapova progresses at Australian Open; Murray shares concerns over match-fixing

Maria Sharapova is through to the third round of the Australian Open after a comfortable win against Aliaksandra Sasnovich. British star Andy Murray was also in winning form, and took time out between rounds to comment on the match-fixing scandal.

Sharapova previously won the title in 2008, but has lost three finals at Melbourne Park, with two of those defeats coming against her potential quarter-final opponent, Serena Williams.

The Russian star was delighted with her performance in a 6-2, 6-1 win over 21-year-old Sasnovich: "To come back here and play my first match on Rod Laver is always very special - as you always get those first little jitters out of the way," she said.

Serena Williams beat Hsieh Su-Wei 6-1, 6-2 to remain on course to defend her title and continue her quest for a seventh Australian Open crown.

The American, who has won 70 out of 79 matches since her debut in the tournament in 1998, said: "It all started here - this is where I played my first Grand Slam right on this court, and I'm still going. It's such an honor - I love it every time I come here."

British number one Johanna Konta shocked eighth-seed Venus Williams 6-4, 6-2 to reach the second round of the tournament.

Williams, 35, had no answer to Konta, ranked world number 47, who produced an assured display to secure a second round match against China's Saisai Zheng.

Rafael Nadal crashed out of a Grand Slam at the first-round stage for just the second time in his career after a five-set loss to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Nadal looked on course for success when he led 2-0 in the fifth set, but Verdasco rattled off six games in a row for a 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 win.

“The match is a tough one to lose for me obviously,” said Nadal. “It's not like last year, when I arrived here playing bad and not feeling ready for it.”

“This year was a completely different story. I have been playing and practising great and working so much. It is tough when you work so much and arrived at a very important event and you're going out too early.”

Roger Federer eased into to the third round with a stylish performance against Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.

The Swiss dominated on his serve, hitting 25 aces and winning 43 out of 49 first-serve points on his way to a 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 victory.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic put aside thoughts of the match-fixing scandal surrounding tennis to progress into the next round.

Murray defeated German teenager Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 to reach round two, while Djokovic comfortably disposed of France's Quentin Halys 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 to make it into to the third round.

The BBC and BuzzFeed News investigation which revealed suspected illegal betting patterns in tennis over the past decade has overshadowed the start of the tournament.

It has been alleged that 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been brought to the attention of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they have deliberately lost matches.

Murray revealed he has had his own doubts about the integrity of the sport: "I've heard about certain matches where something might have been going on," he said. "I've watched them and watched replays of them."

"As a player, I've thought, 'That doesn't look right'. Because as players we can see if something is going wrong."

World number one Djokovic claimed he once rejected $160,000 to lose a match, but doesn't believe corruption exists amongst the elite players.

"From my knowledge and information about match-fixing, there is nothing happening at the top level, as far as I know," he said.