#360view: Stars of tennis call for more action over corruption

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  • Tennis legend Roger Federer has spoken out against match-fixing in the sport.

    The mood in the media centre at the Australian Open in Melbourne has shifted since the match-fixing report from the BBC/BuzzFeed came out early on Monday.

    What was meant to be an exciting opening day of tennis that featured the likes of Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova suddenly became about the ugliest side of professional sport – corruption.

    While no one is naive enough to believe that match-fixing does not exist in tennis, it is pointless to completely lose faith in the integrity of the sport when there is no evidence.

    Talk to any player off the record and more than likely he or she will admit they suspect someone has thrown a set or a match. But is there proof? No, there isn’t, so life simply goes on.

    So when an article comes out which claims there is evidence that implicates 16 current or former top-50 players in match-fixing, then you scroll through the entire report and find barely any detail on such evidence and only two players are named whom we already knew about from seven years ago; we’re certainly back to square one.

    The fact the report itself said it wasn’t naming names due to lack of evidence makes it difficult to understand where the supposed “bombshell” lies.

    Still, players need to be asked about it and instead of reporting on the 128 men’s and women’s singles matches scheduled on day one at the Australian Open, journalists scoured the hallways of Melbourne Park trying to uncover details of the mysterious “evidence”.

    The unfortunate side of all this is the reaction of tennis itself. The sport’s chiefs clearly knew some news was about to break and they quickly scheduled a press conference to address the matter.

    All the tennis bigwigs assembled into the “Theatrette” to “reject the claims that evidence was being suppressed” but when the moment of truth came and the Tennis Integrity Unit director, Nigel Willerton, was asked whether any players competing at the Australian Open were currently being monitored by his organisation, he simply said he cannot say.

    Players were getting briefed by press officers from tennis governing bodies on what to say and the tension needlessly kept building throughout the day. Many questions were dodged, answers were mostly vague and very few players felt comfortable saying how they really felt.

    For a sport trying to send a message that it is clean, it is acting an awful lot like a tainted one.

    The lack of transparency is incredible and the fact that we’re only now finding out details about the match-fixing scandal from Sopot, some nine years later, is ridiculous.

    Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Ernests Gulbis are players who have explicitly called for more details to come to light, and Julien Benneteau said people should not be allowed to bet on individual sports. But the vast majority said little when prompted.

    Match-fixing is incredibly difficult to prove, it usually involves very dangerous people and it’s naive to think it can be eradicated from the sport. But the least we ask of authorities is to invest more in the Integrity Unit, divulge information, take any evidence seriously and educate the players.

    This is a problem tennis cannot hide from. It’s time we’re all open about it.