Suspicions of tennis match-fixing has long plagued the sport, but this week the BBC and BuzzFeed News are claiming they have obtained evidence to prove that corruption is widespread and rampant among the world’s fourth most popular sport.
As OnlineGambling.com reported back in July, a 2007 match between Martin Vassallo Arguello and Nikolay Davydenko raised much suspicion after betting volumes rapidly increased favoring an improbable upset.
Ranked 87th in the world at the time, Arguello won the match when fourth-ranked Davydenko withdrew citing a left foot injury.
Both players were cleared of any wrongdoing, but several sportsbooks refused to pay on winning bets due to the allegations of fraud.
On Monday, the BBC and BuzzFeed revealed that they’re the recipients of a “cache of documents” stemming from 2007 that hints at a cover-up among tennis’ governing body, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
The media outlets allege that match-fixing remains prevalent within the sport, and that the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has done little to combat the problem.
“Over the last decade, 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged … over suspicions they have thrown matches,” BBC and BuzzFeed announced. “All of the players, including winners of Grand Slam titles, were allowed to continue competing.”
The BBC and BuzzFeed further allege that the acquired documents identify betting syndicates in Russia and Italy heavily profiting off certain matches, and that a report suggested that the TIU investigate some 28 players potentially involved in fixing their matches for backdoor payments.
The TIU never looked into the matter.
In the bombshell allegations, the BBC and BuzzFeed refused to name any suspected players as access to phone records, bank statements, and computer data wasn’t made available to definitively prove guilt.
The TIU, formed in 2008 to “streamline and strengthen corruption investigations,” and ATP, says the headlines are hearsay. “The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
“There are nearly 21,000 active professional players and over 2,100 officials, playing and officiating in over 1,500 tournaments in 80 countries around the world,” ATP Executive Chairman Chris Kermode declared. “The vast majority of these individuals are good people of high integrity.”
Novak Djokovic is considered one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the sport. The winner of 10 Grand Slam titles including five at Wimbledon, Djokovic said this week that he was approached in 2007 to throw a match in Russia for $200,000.
Djokovic was only 19 at the time, yet still one of the top 10 players in the world. $200,000 was certainly nowhere near enough to entice the superstar.
“I was approached through people that were working with me at that time,” Djokovic said. “Of course, we rejected it right away.”
Djokovic doesn’t believe any current players are being enticed by criminal enterprises, but his view might be clouded considering he’s the top-ranked player in the sport and is worth more than $100 million.
The lower-ranked journeymen and women would be much more prone to accepting such a bribe, but until the TIU moves to perform the proper investigations, those allegations will remain just that.