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ATP Bans, Fines Italian Tennis Pros for Betting

The Association of Tennis Professionals Tour has suspended Italy's top player, Potito Starace, and compatriot Daniele Bracciali for betting on tennis matches.

Starace, ranked 31st in the world, was suspended for six weeks and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine. Bracciali, ranked 258th, was banned for three months and fined $20,000.

Both suspensions take effect January first, meaning that both players will miss the Australian Open, which starts January 14th.

The Italian Tennis Federation said Starace made five bets for a total of $130 two years ago. Bracciali made 50 bets of around $7 each between 2004 and 2005. The Italian Federation denounced the bans, saying that the penalties do not fit the crime and that the ATP is singling out Italian players.

In November, another Italian player - Alessio Di Mauro - was banned for nine months, also for betting on matches. Concerns have arisen about match-fixing in tennis since August, when an on-line betting company reported unusual activity during a match between fourth-ranked Russian Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina.

Davydenko retired in the third set but denies any wrongdoing. Since then, several players have said they have been approached with match-fixing offers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.