Serena, Federer roll on

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

MELBOURNE. — Serena Williams and Roger Federer stamped their class on the Australian Open yesterday as a top anti-corruption official criticised tennis’s efforts against match-fixing following a major controversy this week.

But world number one Novak Djokovic tussled with French teenager Quentin Halys in the third set before reaching the Australian Open third round in straight sets.

The 10-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion downed the 187th-ranked Halys 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) in one hour 40 minutes in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.

It was all plain sailing for the Serbian top seed as he reeled off the opening two sets for the loss of just three games in 56 minutes. As tennis’ corruption-fighting body was slammed as “opaque and secretive”, Williams barged past Hsieh Su-Wei 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round as she seeks a record-equalling 22nd major title.

Williams eased lingering concerns over the state of her injured knee as she obliterated the Taiwanese, even pulling off possibly her first ever round-the-net shot for good measure.

“It’s always cool to do something fresh and new. I don’t know if I have done that,” said the American world number one, who showed no signs discomfort from her knee.

“I moved much better, so slowly but surely feeling a little bit better,” she added.

Federer, who is trying to extend his record number of Grand Slam crowns to 18, then dismantled his 35th-ranked practice partner Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 7-5, 6-1.

The all-time Grand Slam king came unstuck in the third round last year, when he was shocked by Andreas Seppi, and he is wary of another upset with Grigor “Baby Fed” Dimitrov up next.

“It’s the least I expect to be in the third round of a Slam, obviously, so I’m pumped up, playing well, feeling good,” Federer said.

“But there’s always a danger, you know. Like last year the third round was the end for me, so I hope to go further this time.”

The straightforward wins pleased the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, where early rain gave way to bright sun as attention refocused on tennis after the match-fixing controversy overshadowed the first two days. After an explosive report claimed some top players were suspected of being serial match-fixers, Chris Eaton, director of integrity at the International Centre of Sport Security, said corruption was commonplace in tennis’s lower tiers.

“In the second and lower levels, manipulation indicators are heavy and regularly occurring,” Eaton said, criticising the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) which is tasked with fighting corruption.” — AFP.

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