According to the BBC and BuzzFeed, there is strong evidence that tennis authorities have more or less allowed match-fixing to occur at major tournaments. If true, this would be one of the biggest scandals in sports history.
In fact, James Blake, when asked how big this potential scandal would be for tennis, needed just one word: big.
“I know you were just talking about that in America you don’t see much about betting lines on tennis, and I agree,” the former tennis star and current Tennis Channel analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But across the world, it is huge. It is big business, and people do their research just the same as (someone) in the states doing tons of research on fantasy football or DraftKings and stuff. People are checking past records, who’s playing better right now, what the surface is, temperature and everything that’s going on to see who should be winning matches – and they’re making bets. All of that should be allowed. All of that’s fine if you’re just doing research.
But where this is becoming a problem is it’s even worse than just inside information,” Blake continued. “This is people completely duping the public. If what they’re saying is true, people are throwing matches for the sake of these huge syndicates and gamblers that are making a fortune off of knowing the results of the match. It’s the same as a boxer taking a dive. We can’t let that happen. The greatest thing about tennis an sports in general is the unscripted nature of it, the fact that anything can happen. For me, I’m a little biased, but I love tennis even more so for being unscripted because theres no clock. In basketball, if you’re down 20 points with a minute left, I’m sorry to say the game is over. It’s impossible (to come back). In tennis if you’re down 5-love, 40-love in the last set, there’s still a chance. You have the ability to come back. You just win every point that you need to.
“So this makes it so people might question that – and that’s really unfortunate. It could be extremely damaging to the sport.”
Investigators reportedly embarked on a ninth-month inquiry in 2007, during which they discovered suspicious betting patterns on professional tennis matches. Roughly 28 players have been connected to suspected match-fixing, but the main focus has been on a group of 10 or so competitors.
“My immediate thought was not one of complete shock,” said Blake, who was once ranked among the top five players in the world. “I’m not entirely surprised. What immediately came up was anger. I want, just like Roger (Federer) said, (for these) names to come out because I want them dealt with. I want the Tour to do everything they possibly can to make sure this doesn’t happen. If it’s happened in the past, so be it. Move on, punish them as much as possible and make sure certainly from today one that nothing could ever happen.”
Blake said he was never offered money, probably because he was successful relatively early in his career. But even if Blake hadn’t been as successful as he was, he wouldn’t have given into the temptation.
“If anyone has done this, I just wish they would think of it long-term,” he said. “Instead of seeing money right in front of their face, you’ve got to think about how much it’s going to affect the entire sport, how much you’re hurting the game you love that’s opened so many doors for you. If someone did this, especially if a top player ever did this, it’s so damaging to the sport. Whether you made $50,000 or $100,000, is that worth wrecking the sport that gave you every opportunity to succeed? I just think it’s so short-sided for anyone to take any sort of a bribe or any sort of measure like this.”