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SYDNEY, January 18. /TASS/. Russia’s titled tennis star and former World’s No. 1 Maria Sharapova said on Monday she hoped fix-up matches do not exist in the sport of tennis, which to her personally always "meant a lot more than money."
The BBC reported earlier on Monday that over the last decade players, who had been ranked among the world’s top 50, including winners of Grand Slam titles, were involved in match-fixing.
Sharapova on Monday won her first round match of the Australian Open in Melbourne as she defeated straight sets emerging 21-year-old Japanese player Nao Hibino - 6-1, 6-3.
Asked in an interview with the organizers of the tournament after the match whether Sharapova believed that fix-up matches existed in tennis, the Russian player said "honestly, I really hope not."
"I mean, to me the sport itself has always meant a lot more than money. I know that the more successful you are and the more matches you win, the more prize money, the more money you will receive," she said.
"But ultimately that's never been my personal driving factor in the sport," she said. "There's just so much more on the line. There's the competitiveness. There's the challenge of being better. There's playing in front of thousands of people, playing you against somebody across the net and you trying to win that match."
"When you're out there, it's not about money," Sharapova, the winner of the 2008 Australian Open, added.
The documents obtained by the BBC "show the enquiry found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily making hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches investigators thought to be fixed. Three of these matches were at Wimbledon."
The investigation examined suspicious betting activity after a game involving Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo. Both players were cleared of violating any rules but the investigation developed into a much wider enquiry looking into a web of gamblers linked to top-level players, according to the BBC.
The sole tennis players caught in match-fixing by now are Daniel Kollerer from Austria and Alexandros Jakupovic from Greece. The Austrian has become the first tennis player banned for life for attempting to fix at least three matches between October 2009 and July 2010.
In late November 2011, Kollerer applied to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to challenge the decision made by the ATP and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). However, the appeal was rejected in March 2012.
Jakupovic was banned for life in mid-December 2015 on five counts related to match-fixing.
Kollerer ranked 55th in the ATP rating in October 2009 while Jakupovic’s best result was the 464th position in the ATP rating in 2009.