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Match Fixing: A problem with lower levels of tennis for a very long time

World No 1 Novak Djokovic’s revelation that even he was approached to fix matches - and offered a sum of $200,000 - shows that someone high up in the food-chain, has connections strong enough to be able to approach a player of his calibre.

tennis Updated: Jan 19, 2016 12:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Novak Djokovic,Roger Federer,Fixing Scandal
A view of the stadium during final of the ATP Chennai Open 2016 between Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and Borna Coric of Croatia at SDAT Tennis Stadium in Chennai on January 10, 2016. (PTI Photo)

So at least one bad seed is present at the year’s first Grand Slam. What a shame. It seems no sport, whatever the level, is free of the menace. For every positive story, there seems to be two negatives.

World No 1 Novak Djokovic’s revelation that even he was approached to fix matches--- and offered a sum of $200,000--- shows that someone high up in the food-chain, has connections strong enough to be able to approach a player of his calibre. Granted that the Serbian was approached in 2007, but even then, he was high-profile enough. He won his first Grand Slam the next year. He has further gone on to state that claims of fixing among the elite players in tennis are false.

Like in most cases, one coming out has led to a windfall. Britain’s former Davis Cup player Arvind Parmar said struggling tennis pros were the most vulnerable to match-fixing offers, revealing on Tuesday that a shifty figure once approached him with a cash-stuffed envelope.

In allegations rocking the world of tennis, the BBC and BuzzFeed are claiming that a “core group” of 16 players who reached the top 50 in the past decade, including Grand Slam title-winners, have repeatedly caused suspicion over match-fixing.

Parmar, 37, who retired in 2006, said the allegations of widespread corruption did not come as a shock as he had turned down a ‘bung’ himself.

“My only surprise at the reports this week is that the fixing allegedly involved players in Grand Slams as they have more to lose, and I’ve only heard rumours about players at a lower level,” Parmar wrote in The Times newspaper.

Parmar, who reached a career-high world ranking of 137, said he was once approached at a tournament in Groningen in the Netherlands in 2004, on the second-tier Challenger tour.

“Players on the Challenger circuit are quite vulnerable and it’s easy to see why they’re approached, as most of them are doing well to break even financially,” he wrote.

“Being presented with cash and no questions asked is a big carrot at that level.”

Parmar said of the approach he instantly dismissed: “I was offered an envelope full of euros to lose in two sets, only an hour before I was due on court.

“I was approached by a random guy as I was coming off the practice courts. He showed me the money and said that I had to lose in two sets.

In another indication that match-fixers are preying on tennis players, 19-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, the world number 86, said he had been approached through Facebook.

“Just these randoms (people) from nowhere saying ‘I’ll pay you this much money to tank a game’. I try and block it and get rid of that stuff and focus on what you need to do,” he said.

An unnamed former tennis trader for a bookmaking company also told The Times that he suspected matches were fixed “on a regular basis, particularly towards the end of the season” because of irregular movements in the betting odds.

Following the 2007 case cited on Monday by the British media and the investigation into Russian tennis player Nikolay Davydenko, which resulted in him being cleared, the international federation created the Tennis Investigation Unit (TIU) whose investigators work with police in many countries.

The ATP and WTA were also given very strict rules prohibiting players and their entourage from betting, while in the big tournaments, systems are in place to identify important bets and track suspicious gambling patterns.

“Overall, there have been very few cases because there there are very few ways to obtain evidence,” admitted Verschuuren, except in countries in western Europe, signatories of the Convention of the Council of Europe on the subject.

Tennis, however, remains far behind football, which accounts for 60 percent of worldwide bets, and has been sullied by the Italian Calcioscommesse case and recurrent scandals in Southeast Asia, with cricket also repeatedly mired in allegations of match-fixing.

(With inputs from Agencies)

First Published: Jan 19, 2016 12:25 IST