World No.1 Novak Djokovic has claimed he was once indirectly offered $200,000 (£140,000) to lose a first-round match in the St. Petersburg Open in Russia, but said he does not believe match-fixing is an issue at the top of the sport.
Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian provided quotes from the Serbian icon, who was addressing recent match-fixing allegations—related to tennis as a whole—posed by the BBC and Buzzfeed. Djokovic commented:
I was not approached directly. Well... 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.
Unfortunately there were some, in those times, those days, rumours, some talks, some people were going around. They were dealt with. In the last six, seven years, I haven’t heard anything similar. I personally was never approached directly, so I have nothing more to say about that.
It made me feel terrible because I don’t want to be anyhow linked to this. 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.
Djokovic received the offer at the 2007 St. Petersburg Open, per BBC Sport, but eventually did not take part in the competition.
The player condemned those involved in match-fixing, and said he is grateful he has been surrounded by honest people during his development to the top of the game. Djokovic added he does not believe match-fixing is an issue for elite players in tennis at present.
"From my knowledge and information about, you know, the match-fixing or anything similar, there is nothing happening on the top level, as far as I know," he said, per Mike Dickson of the Mail Online. "Challenger level, those tournaments, maybe, maybe not."
Simon Cox of BBC Sport reported on Monday "secret files" proving "widespread" fixing within tennis had come to light, with top players being flagged to tennis authorities over suspicions of throwing matches.
Over the last decade, 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they have thrown matches.
All of the players, including winners of Grand Slam titles, were allowed to continue competing. ...
... The documents we have obtained show the enquiry found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily making hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches investigators thought to be fixed. Three of these matches were at Wimbledon.
In a confidential report for the tennis authorities in 2008, the enquiry team said 28 players involved in these matches should be investigated, but the findings were never followed up.
ATP supremo Chris Kermode has denied the allegations, but he said any new evidence will be closely scrutinised, per Cox: "While the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information."
Women's world No. 1 Serena Williams briefly commented that if match-fixing was taking place, she "didn't know about it," per BBC Sport. The American legend added: "When I'm playing, I can only answer for me, I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard."
Many sports have suffered corruption scandals in the past 12 months, but the clean image of tennis is now at risk due to the latest reports. Djokovic's revelations suggest there might be credence to the accusations, and further examinations are needed to vet historical match-fixing across the board.
The World No. 1's focus for now will remain on the defence of his Australian Open title, which he kicked off by defeating Korean teenager Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, on Monday.
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