On Monday during his press conference in Melbourne at the Australian Open, professional tennis star Novak Djokovic claimed that in people he worked with approached him in 2007 and asked him to rig a match. Djokovic claimed that the people who approached him were amongst the few who worked with him at the time, and he was offered $200,000 to fix a match at a tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia. Djokovic claimed that he “flat out rejected the offer” and ended up not even attending the tournament, but still felt the need to clear his name in the midst of the onslaught of reports by Buzzfeed and BBC surrounding the issue of match-fixing in professional tennis. Djokovic stated:
“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.”
The initial report by BBC did not name players due to the lack of a direct link to players betting, but the report did say that there is a “core group” of 16 suspected male players who have been ranked in the top 50 in recent years, including a US Open champion, who could potentially be involved.
If this report by BBC does end up proving to be true, it is a major blow to the integrity of not just professional tennis, but to all professional sports. Other players who recently commented on the matter are the face of women’s tennis, Serena Williams, and 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer. On Monday, Wiliams claimed:
“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.”
Federer, expressed more interest into the scandal, saying that he wished the report had named names:
“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?”
In the past few years, other professional sports such as soccer (FIFA) and basketball (NBA) have seen incidents of match-fixing and other methods of corruption. The NBA dealt with a very serious issue in 2007 with former referee, Tim Donaghy, being investigated by the FBI and later convicted of fixing games and various corruption charges. More recently, FIFA executives all over the world and FIFA President Sepp Blatter have all been indicted on corruption charges for various reasons, including the buying of votes for World Cup host cities. The report by BBC about match-fixing in professional tennis just adds to the theory that professional sports are corrupt, and hopefully for the sake of the sport that more information is able to surface and those who are responsible can be banned from tennis.
This is a very bad look for professional tennis, especially when one of the faces of the sport comes out and says he had to turn down offers from his own people to fix matches. Right now, there still is not enough information for the USTA, ATP, or any other organization to do anything on the matter in regards to an investigation, as no names were named. If more information or names become linked to the report, than professional tennis could be in a world of trouble. Anytime a professional sport has any of its players linked to fixing matches or any other type of corruption, it is a very serious issue. More information still has to come out, but this report by BBC could be the beginning of something big that could reshape the sports world.