Defending champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams raced into the Australian Open 2016 second round as the year’s first Grand Slam was rocked by claims of widespread match-fixing in tennis. Former winners Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova also progressed smoothly on a hot day at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic’s main opponent was the 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) heat as he cooled himself with ice vests during the change-overs. The top seed dispatched Korean rising star Chung Hyeon 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
“You try to stay composed, not get carried away by heat, get distracted,” said the Serb, who was forced out of the 2009 quarter-finals as he struggled with the heat.
“Of course, there were some long rallies, long exchanges that got both of us a little bit short on air. But I think physically I was really good on the court.”
Serena also made a positive return to competitive tennis after a four-month break as she eased into a 6-4, 7-5 against Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
“I haven’t played a competitive match in a really long time so it was good for me to come out here and get through it,” Williams said. “I was able to stay in it and stay calm and that is what matters most.”
Federer was also untroubled in his 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win over Georgia’s Nicoloz Basilashvili as he continued his quest for his 18th Grand Slam title.
Sharapova, the women’s winner in 2008, beat Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-1, 6-3 in just 73 minutes in her first match of the year after a forearm injury forced her out of the Brisbane International.
“I’m feeling really good, which is a positive. I’m just happy to finish off today and be able to get ready for the next one,” said the Russian.
Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also went through, while Caroline Wozniacki became the biggest casualty on day one.
The former world number one was stunned in three sets by Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
“I would say it’s a pretty shitty start to the season,” the downcast Dane told reporters.
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard safely reached the second round, and Spain’s Carla Suarez earned applause when she helped a ball boy from the court as he swooned in high temperatures.
Shocking match-fixing revelations
However, the tennis seemed to be overshadowed by a report which said top-50 players, including Grand Slam champions, had repeatedly been suspected of match-fixing without facing action.
Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) chief Chris Kermode rejected any suggestion that match-fixing evidence had been covered up or ignored.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated,” Kermode told reporters.
“And while the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information, and we always do.”
Quotes from Day One
“For me, that's an act of unsportsmanship, a crime in sport honestly. I don't support it. I think there is no room for it in any sport, especially in tennis.”
- Novak Djokovic on match-fixing allegations.
“I'm just thinking positive. You know, that match is done with. On to the next one. So like I said, A for effort.”
- Serena Williams on how she rated her first round win.
“It's amazing how life goes by, and sometimes to be able to recollect those memories is very interesting. I've been speaking to my grandparents, my father and my mother a lot, recording the conversations. I feel like a reporter in a way.”
- Maria Sharapova, who has been busy compiling her biography, which is out next year.
“I just think, you know, where I get a little bit angry, I get hung out to dry a little bit.”
- Controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios, who has a bad boy reputation.
“I would say it's a pretty sh**** start to the season.”
- Caroline Wozniacki on her first-round loss to Yulia Putintseva.
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