The tennis world has been rocked this week after the allegations of not only match fixing going on in the sport, but also the governing bodies covering it up. If this were to be true it would mean tennis is corrupt from the top of the sport all the way down, and like Cycling, Football and Athletics we would have to throw everything out and start again. That is a big concern to everyone involved in the game.
Suspicious results aren’t always suspicious. There may be any number of reasons why an athlete wouldn’t try their best for the duration of a match. They could be tired, injured, they might want to go home, have a flight booked for that afternoon they can’t change, or they just aren’t up for it that day. I don’t agree with these reasons but they do happen quite regularly especially when you are at a lower level.
However, suspicious betting is always suspicious. These companies have an incredible amount of data at their disposal and can quite clearly see when huge amounts are bet on the underdog which is out of the ordinary. They will then watch the match and watch the favourite crash out uncharacteristically, and based on the betting before the match can make an educated guess that the outcome was pre determined. If this happens multiple times with the same player what would you think?
Of course this goes on in Tennis, it goes on in every sport. Having played on the circuit as well as dipping my toes in to the tour for 7 years I have never been directly exposed to match fixing, so I don’t think it is rife in the sport. If it was I would have been approached, or I would know of someone else who had been. The accusations are directed mainly at Russian and Italian players which would mean that the problem is a culture in certain nations along with a few other rogue players, not necessarily a culture in Tennis. Or perhaps they didn’t target me because I am British and had the backing of the richest federation in the world behind me so they know I don’t have the same level of desperation for funds.
I have had one incident that is in this area and that was when a stranger impersonated me on Facebook, became friends with a lot of other players and was harassing them for information on other player’s fitness and form. It was clearly to do with betting but fortunately one of the first 2 players they contacted knew it wasn’t me (mainly because the English wasn’t good enough), and told me it was going on. I looked at the profile and I must say it was well put together and if it wasn’t for the poor language they could have got away with it.
I contacted the Tennis Integrity Unit but there wasn’t much they could do to help except instruct me to sort it out. I needed to contact each one of the 40 or so players that had been duped in to accepting the friend request and tell them it was fake. I sent the TIU pictures of the conversations and profile and went through the process of getting Facebook to take the profile down. It was nothing to do with my security either as that was fine. So yes I informed the TIU and they were pleased I did but they couldn’t really do anything about it. The situation was for me to sort out with Facebook.
The fact is that tennis is an expensive sport to play. I went back to competing professionally for 12 months last year and even though I did quite well found myself £12,000 worse off, and that was travelling without a coach and being as economical as possible. Over the years I have heard the media’s claims that British players are ‘spoilt’, but I have always maintained that it costs every player the same amount (around $100,000) to complete a full year with a coach whether you get that money from your parents, your federation, a private sponsor or a criminal gang. If your parents are poor, your federation is poor you aren’t left with many options.
Until we have the names and details of the accusations we will not know to what extent fixing is going on. What I would say is that we cannot judge whether someone is match fixing or not from their performance, as sport is full of ups and downs and that is what makes it so compelling. I would take the data from the betting agencies more seriously but is that enough to prove that someone is fixing? You can accuse all you want but you have to be able to prove that the player is involved before you can chuck them out of the game for good. This has happened to a few players over the years but they are only the ones that have been proven guilty.
I really hope that the ATP, WTA, ITF and TIU are better than those that have been running Cycling, Football and Athletics in recent years, and that they are always battling to get rid of this corruption on every level. We will have to wait for more details to make a judgement on that.
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