World number one tennis champion Novak Djokovic has admitted that in 2006 he was offered a $227,000 bribe to throw a match.
The bribe was to lose a first round match in St Petersburg, a tournament he didn’t end up playing in.
“I was not approached directly. I was approached through people that were working with me at that time, that were with my team,” Djokovic told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“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.
“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.”
Since that incident, almost a decade ago, Djokovic says he has not witnessed match fixing in the sport.
“From my knowledge and information about the match fixing or anything similar, there is nothing happening on the top level, as far as I know,” Djokovic said. “Challenger level, those tournaments, maybe, maybe not.”
This follows an investigation by the BBC and BuzzFeed into a “core group” of the top seeds suspected of fixing matches.
Leaked documents known as “the Fixing Files” and BuzzFeed’s own analysis of betting on 26,000 matches and interviews identified “15 players who regularly lost matches in which heavily lopsided betting appeared to substantially shift the odds”.
Four players showed a pattern of losing these “red-flag” matches. See more of the findings here.
ATP and Tennis Integrity Unit has denied allegations they hid or overlooked evidence of match fixing related to international crime syndicates.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit and tennis authorities absolutely reject any evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t thoroughly being investigated,” ATP president Chris Kermode said.
“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 has to find evidence as opposed to information, suspicion, or hearsay. This is the key here, that it requires evidence.”
The Australian Open organisers are also under pressure over a sponsorship deal with international betting giant William Hill, which is run by Tom Waterhouse in Australia.
The $4 million makes William Hill not only the first bookmaker in the world to sponsor a Grand Slam tennis event, but was announced just weeks after the launch of a federal government inquiry into interactive gambling.