Tue, 19 Jan, 2016, 11:25
The start of year's first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, has been overshadowed by serious fixing allegations on the sport of tennis, which surfaced on Monday.
No players were identified in the reports, which alleged 16 players had been flagged repeatedly with tennis authorities but not sanctioned on suspicion of match-fixing. Half of those are entered in the Australian Open, the reports added.
But no one has been named so far in the controversy that threatens to grow bigger and hit the sport hard.
Jolts of the breaking news were also felt in Indian tennis with CNN-IBN learning that there could be a possibility of Chennai Open, India’s only ATP tournament, also being used as a platform to fix matches.
ATP chairman Chris Kermode, however, refuted all reports of corruption: "Absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason, or isn't being investigated," he said at a hastily-convened press conference.
But what's astonishing is that the reports suggest that the players fixed matches at Wimbledon, and one top-50 player, who is currently in action at the ongoing Australian Open in Melbourne, is suspected to lose his first-round matches repeatedly. The documents also show that there is a Grand Slam winner among the 16 suspected players, who has been repeatedly reported for losing matches suspiciously.
The documents revealed that players were targeted In their hotel rooms at major tournaments and the basic price to fix a match was around $50,000.
The document, which is a report prepared by retired officers of Scotland Yard, also suggests that top tennis officials were regularly informed about rampant match-fixing and provided with substantial evidence, but they put cotton wool on their eyes and ignored the warnings.
With the Australian Open going on at the moment, top players were expected to ask some tough questions surrounding these revelations; and this is what some of them had to say.
I don't know exactly how much new things came out, to be quite honest. I heard old names being dropped. That story was checked out. Clearly you got to take it super serious, you know, like they did back in the day. Since we have the Integrity Unit, it puts more pressure on them that a story like this broke again.
But I don't know how much new things there is out there. It's just really important that all the governing bodies and all the people involved take it very seriously, that the players know about it. There's more pressure on these people now maybe because of this story, which is a good thing.
Under my watch, I mean, we discussed it early on. I actually never heard about it until it was brought up at a player meeting when somebody came and spoke about it. I was like, Okay, came totally from left field. Had no clue what it was about. Didn't sort of know it existed. I hadn't been approached.
Doesn't matter whether I've been approached or not, I haven't. It's a bit farfetched, all these things. Clearly for a few years now we know this is very serious. Got to do everything about it to keep the sport clean. It's vital, there's no doubt about it.
Honestly I've heard about the story and I read that there were a couple of players mentioned who are not active anymore, talking about the matches that have happened almost 10 years ago.
Of course, there is no room for any match fixing or corruption in our sport. We're trying to keep it as clean as possible. We have, I think, a sport evolved and upgraded our programs and authorities to deal with these particular cases.
I don't think the shadow is cast over our sport. In contrary, people are talking about names, guessing who these players are, guessing those names. But there's no real proof or evidence yet of any active players, for that matter. As long as it's like that, it's just speculation. So I think we have to keep it that way.
I was not approached directly. I was approached - well, me personally. I was approached through people that were working with me at that time, that were with my team.
Of course, we threw it away right away. It didn't even get to me, the guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn't even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.
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.
Unfortunately there were some, in those times, those days, rumors, some talks, some people were going around. They were dealt with. In the last six, seven years, I haven't heard anything similar.
To me the sport itself has always meant a lot more than money. I know that the more successful you are and the more matches you win, the more prize money, the more money you will receive.
But ultimately that's never been my personal driving factor in the sport. There's just so much more on the line. There's the competitiveness. There's the challenge of being better. There's playing in front of thousands of people, playing you against somebody across the net and you trying to win that match.
When you're out there, it's not about money. The sport itself is meaningful. It's our career. It's our job. I mean, I guess I can only speak for myself, but we want to succeed at it by improving, by getting better, by beating our own best, and not by anything else.
That's how I would hope everyone else would think, as well. Make it a better and more competitive sport.
I just heard about it today, just as a warning that I might be asked about it. But that's literally all I have heard about it. When I'm playing, I can only answer for me, I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard.
I think that, you know, we go - you know, as an athlete, I do everything I can to be not only great, but, you know, historic. You know, 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.