In January, Buzzfeed News and BBC’s Investigation team rocked the tennis world after its investigators found “detailed evidence of suspected match-fixing orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy.”
Analyzing 26,000 matches played across three continents, as well as a cache of leaked documents from inside the sport known as “the Fixing Files”, the reporters uncovereda core group of 16 players who were consistently involved in match-fixing.
Let us be clear, this are not club level players. In the report’s words: “Winners of singles and doubles titles at Grand Slam tournaments are among the core group of 16 players who have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.”
Even world number one, Novak Djokovic, has acknowledged being approached by such gamblers. No one has been named, though, since there is no smoking gun to take anyone to court.
At these levels of corruption, no tournament is immune. The Mexican Open, to be played at the end of this month next to the beautiful beaches of Acapulco, is no exception. According to tournament director Raul Zurutuza, more than 15 spectators have been removed from the premises due to match-fixing suspicions. “There is a process and all. The ATP’s Integrity Unit has given us a procedure to detect such people. A person comes and works with the tournament security. He has such expertise that he figures out who the gamblers are,” Zurutuza said.
Speaking on the matter, a former ATP executive said “If you were to invent a sport that was tailor-made for match-fixing, the sport that you’d invent would be called tennis,” so in the end it all comes down to player honesty. “Either you take a bribe or you don’t. The tournament has no defense against that,” said Zurutuza.
It’s a shame to be talking about this instead of looking for the winner of a tournament whose importance in the professional circuit is rapidly growing. Two top-ten and two former Grand Slam champions will be in attendance. As fans, we really hope they won’t tank their matches.