Tennis match-fixing is a rather attractive sport for criminal gambling opportunists because one single player has the ability to corrupt the outcome of an entire match, and with 128 draws in each of the sport’s four Grand Slam tournaments, just one needs to be enticed.
The third-most bet upon sport in the world, tennis is alleged to have a serious match-fixing problem.
Sports books allow not only betting on the overall outcome of matches, but also sets, games, and sometimes even individual points.
Together, the individuality of the sport combined with the many betting options bookies permit, a foundation for corruption and ill-gotten gains has been established.
For the majority of touring tennis professionals, the ones not ranked in the top 50 or so, the financial reward simply cannot merit the high travel expenses.
While Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are closing in on $7 million in tournament earnings in 2015 and make many more millions through sponsorship deals, but not everyone can be Djokovic and Williams.
The journeymen and women of professional tennis sometimes struggle just to make end’s meat, and though the Grand Slam events pay handsomely, the other 122 ATP and Women’s Tennis Association tournaments don’t, at least according to some players.
“The payout to cover expenses is not even remotely close,” Coco Vandeweghe, a 23-year-old pro from New York City said last year. “The money hasn’t changed much and the cost to fly anywhere has risen to enormous levels.”
A quick glance at the money leaders for 2015 shows just eight men and eight women have cracked the seven-figure mark seven months into the year, and more than half of the top 200 men have made under $200,000.
That seems like an ample salary to more than get by, one must consider that tennis pros are independent contractors, self-employed entities that must cover travel expenses, coaches, and trainers, and that eclipses more than $100-150,000 annually.
“How are we supposed to compete with that with the job we have?” Vandeweghe asks.
The answer to Vandeweghe’s question for some players is match-fixing.
On August 2, 2007, betting volumes for a match between Martin Vassallo Arguello and Nikolay Davydenko exceeded the expected average by tenfold, with Betfair gamblers heavily wagering that Arguello, then ranked 87th in the world, would upset Davydenko, the 4th-ranked player.
Even more shocking is the fact that the majority of the bets came after Davydenko won the first set 6-2. But the betters “guessed” correctly as he retired from the match two sets later citing a left foot injury, handing Arguello the win.
Betfair refused to pay on the wagers and immediately notified ATP officials who launched a yearlong investigation that eventually turned out fruitless, concrete evidence evading the eyes of detectives.
Regardless, those in the tennis community collectively believe the fix was in.
“If a player recognizes he or she is a good player, but can never be a ‘great’ one, traveling the world and playing for gamblers could easily make for a better life than attempting to be ranked in the top 10,” Brian Tuohy, author of “The Fix Is In” said.
Though Davydenko reached as high as third in the world, he’s underperformed in the majors, never reaching a final match and ultimately slashing his marketability and overall popularity.
With tennis’ marquee tournament currently be contested, the Championships at Wimbledon, match-fixing is once again in the headlines.
After clearly making no effort to return serves during the third game of the second set in his loss to Richard Gasquet, Nick Kyrgios adamantly denied allegations he tanked the match.