Chris Kermode, the president of the ATP, has rejected any implication of a cover-up into match-fixing after an investigation by the BBC in conjunction with BuzzFeed pointed an accusatory finger at a grand slam champion and seven others in the main draw of the Australian Open.
The investigation, which is due to be aired on BBC Radio 4 tonight, claims documents dating back to 2007 expose widespread fixing at the top of world tennis and said that "16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit over suspicion they have thrown matches".Reject
The reaction of the various governing bodies at a hastily convened press conference at Melbourne Park yesterday was swift, considered and unequivocal. “The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated,” said Kermode, who is also chairman of the Association of Tennis Professionals.
“And while the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information, and we always do. In its investigations, the Tennis Integrity Unit [set up by the ATP to monitor betting patterns] has to find evidence, as opposed to information, suspicion or hearsay. This is the key here: that it requires evidence.”
When it was suggested that the TIU had been negligent in investigating this, Whittingdale responded: “If it is correct that reports have been repeatedly made to the Integrity Unit which suggest that match-fixing was taking place, and yet no action was taken, that in itself is very worrying.”
Kermode, however, cited the match at Sopot in Poland in 2007 between the then world No4 Nikolay Davydenko and Martín Vassallo Arguello, who was 87 in the world, which Arguello won when the Russian retired. Betfair, the world's largest online betting company, voided all bets on the match because of what it regarded as "irregular betting patterns".
“A year-long investigation into the Sopot match in 2007 found insufficient evidence,” said Kermode: “As the BuzzFeed report states itself, the investigators hit a brick wall and it just wasn’t possible to determine who the guilty party was in relation to this match. Tennis Integrity Unit anti-corruption investigations have resulted in 18 convictions, of which six have had life bans.”
Nearly all, however, have been minor names.
Asked about claims that eight players under suspicion are in the main draw in Melbourne, Willerton would say only: “It would be inappropriate for me to make comment as to whether any players are under investigation at the present time.”
World number one Novak Djokovic said a member of his staff was approached about fixing a match early in his career, and he questioned whether betting companies should be allowed to sponsor big tennis tournaments.
Djokovic said that as far as he was aware there was no longer a problem with what he described as a “crime in sport” at the top level of tennis, but added that he had once been approached indirectly to throw a match. “I was not approached directly, I was approached through people that were with my team,” he said yesterday.
“The guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn’t even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it. In the last six, seven years, I haven’t heard anything similar.”
In 2007, Djokovic said an approach had been made offering him $200,000 to throw a match at the St Petersburg Open in Russia, a tournament he did not ultimately play in.