Match-fixing has been prevalent in soccer for a long time, invoking a black eye on the world’s most popular sport. But now it’s cast a large shadow on the sport of tennis just as the first major of the season, the Australian Open, gets underway, as reported on by BBC News. The report indicates that 16 players, all of whom have been ranked in the top 50 in the world, have been flagged for throwing matches just in the last 10 years. No names have been published yet because neither BBC News nor Buzzfeed were granted bank or phone records to prove any specific guilt.
This match-fixing scandal has many of the game’s top players speaking out, including top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who revealed that he was offered $200,000 to lose a match in 2007. Djokovic said that although he wasn’t approached directly, his camp was offered the money to drop a first round match at a tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia, one in which he did not compete.
“It made me feel terrible because I don’t want to be anyhow linked to this kind of — you know, somebody may call it an opportunity. 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.”
Djokovic admitted that there were match-fixing rumors in the past, but they had largely disappeared. This news did not appear to distract the number one seed in his first round match, as he was able to defeat Hyeon Chung in straight sets.
Roger Federer, who easily advanced as well, wants some accountability as well.
“I would love to hear names. Then at least it’s concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which slam? It’s so all over the place. It’s nonsense to answer something that is pure speculation. Like I said, it’s super serious and it’s super important to maintain the integrity of our sport. So how high up does it go?”
The lack of details makes the match-fixing rumors even more dangerous. Is it just in men’s tennis, or are the women affected too?
The top ladies player, Serena Williams, is solely focused on playing and winning.
“I can only answer for me. I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard. I think that 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. You know, I’m kind of sometimes in a little bit of a bubble.”
Evidence that match-fixing has largely been ignored was rejected by Association of Tennis Professionals head Chris Kermode, but his team would continue to investigate any new information. During BBC News’ investigation, they contacted a 2007 betting investigator, Mark Phillips, who insisted that match-fixing was indeed real and very common.
“There was a core of about 10 players who we believed were the most common perpetrators that were at the root of the problem. The evidence was really strong. There appeared to be a really good chance to nip it in the bud and get a strong deterrent out there to root out the main bad apples.”
A majority of the signs point to match-fixing being heavily involved in the game of tennis, with further signs indicating that high-ranking tennis officials may have ignored it. Some players may be naive to the notion, but Federer, among others, realizes the financial windfall that all sports have become.
“Betting happens all across the world in all the sports. The players just need to know, we need to make sure the integrity of the game is always maintained because without that, why do you come and watch this match tonight or any match? Because you just don’t know the outcome. As long as we don’t know the outcome, the players, fans, it’s going to be exciting. The moment that gets taken away, there’s no point anymore to be in the stadium.”
[Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images]