Throwing the Match: The Issue of Match-Fixing in Tennis

Unfortunately, at the start of the first Grand Slam event of the year, the Australian Open, Buzzfeed and the BBC have released a report on match-fixing in the tennis community. This is a very serious issue in this sport, as any type of cheating is serious in any sport. While in the back of our minds we are aware that this is possible, we don’t really think about it. This report is definitely concerning as it is accusing the governing bodies of Tennis (ITF, Grand Slam Board, ATP, WTA) and the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) of not taking the necessary actions to address the issue. This accusation should not be taken lightly and the governing bodies of tennis have issued a joint statement outlining how the TIU investigates claims seriously and reviews evidence brought forth as match-fixing is difficult to prove since matches in themselves are unpredictable.

The way that Buzzfeed/BBC and others investigate it is through betting patterns. Matches that have suspicious betting patterns could suggest match-fixing. However, there are many cases, almost all tennis matches, where matches have many twists and turns, but no odd betting patters, so it is definitely possible for a large momentum swing, without match-fixing. When matches are fixed, it taints any tournament it happens at, since if one match is fixed, it changes the course of the tournament, and with the effect tournaments have on the rankings, it effects the tour. It is unacceptable and players should be punished if found guilty of match-fixing.

While this article sheds light on an important problem in the tennis community, this article has several key problems. The big one being that it doesn’t name any names, aside from Nikolay Davydenko, Martin Vassallo Arguello, and and Daniel K├Âllerer. However, they make it a point that some of these players are playing right now at the Australian Open, and that several have been, or are currently in the top 50. Roger Federer has already stated that he would like to hear names. The reporters say they are deliberately leaving out names despite the fact they have all this evidence. While it can be to protect these players since these are only just accusations, if they have overwhelming evidence, they should present it. I respect not naming names, except for the fact that they detail the Davydenko-Vassallo Arguello case. Since Davydenko was a top 5 player then and afterwards, that is a lofty accusation to throw around. While, it is possible, he was never found guilty of such an offense. Part of the reason to name names is to get the information out there. The reporters are being cautious and I respect that, but at some point the information has to come out, or these players can continue to live in the shadows.

The last issue is the timing of this article. It was released right at the beginning of the Australian Open, and not by coincidence. Grand Slam tournaments get the most media attention of all tournaments in tennis, and releasing a jaw-dropping article during one of these events, gives it the most traction. However, it also takes away from the tournament itself, especially when accusing players that are playing in this very edition of the event. So while this decision makes sense from a traction point of view, it casts concerns over the tournament, and may not be the best time to release it if you are going to accuse players, but not say who.

Match-fixing should not be taken lightly, and the TIU and governing bodies of tennis should be vigilant. While I may not agree with their reporting or timing, it is an important issue that must be addressed. Match-fixing is disgraceful and has no place in this sport that I and many others love.