Williams dismisses match-fixing claims

Serena Williams has dismissed any hint of match-fixing in women’s tennis after surviving a tough early test to safely progress to the second round of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

While there’s been no suggestion of any such sinister behaviour on her tour as the ATP deals with fresh stories of fixing in men’s tennis, Williams made it clear on Monday that throwing anything but a ball toss wasn’t in her DNA.

“When I’m playing, and I can only answer for me, I play very hard and every player I play seems to play hard,” the 21-time grand slam champion said after her 6-4 7-5 win over Italian Camila Giorgi.

“As an athlete, I do everything I can to be not only great but historic.

“If that’s going on, I don’t know about it. I’m kind of sometimes in a little bit of a bubble.”

A knee injury had prevented Williams from completing a competitive match since the US Open in September, but the American was relieved to come through unscathed against Giorgi to book a second-round meeting on Wednesday with Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh.

“It’s great. It was an hour and 43 minutes and I didn’t feel it at all,” said the top seed.

“It wasn’t very easy. She obviously plays very well and knows how to play the shots.

“I haven’t played a competitive match in a long while but it was really good.

“It wasn’t quick so that worked to my advantage. I was able to stay in it and stay calm today and that’s what matters most.”

Earlier, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also dispelled any lingering fitness doubts to be the first player at the Open through to the second round.

The sixth-seeded Czech scored a commanding 6-3 6-1 win over Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum in the opening match of the tournament at Rod Laver Arena.

Kvitova pulled out of last week’s Sydney International with gastro, having also retired mid-match during the first round in Shenzhen earlier this month, her only other appearance since the Fed Cup final in November.

“But I’m feeling much better now,” Kvitova said after setting up a second-round date with Australian young gun Daria Gavrilova, a 7-6 (6-3) 6-4 victory over Czech Lucie Hradecka.

Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, 10th seed Carla Suarez, highly-rated teenage 12th seed Belinda Bencic and Williams’ US Open conquerer, Italian 13th seed Roberta Vinci, also advanced on Monday.

But two well-credentialled seeds crashed out.

Russian Margarita Gasparyan removed former French Open finalist Sara Errani, seeded 17th, 1-6 7-5 6-1, while Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang ousted American 24th seed Sloane Stephens, a semi-finalist in 2013 and winner of the season-opening Auckland Classic, 6-3 6-3.

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