Andy Murray has called for the tennis authorities to do more to rid the sport of match-fixing in the wake of the BBC’s revelations into widespread corruption in last night’s File on 4 radio programme.
News of the BBC’s investigation, conducted with the American website BuzzFeed, broke on the opening day of the Australian Open and has been the talk of Melbourne Park ever since. The allegations that a grand slam champion is involved in match rigging and that eight players who have regularly been flagged up to the Tennis Integrity Unit, the group in charge of weeding out the cheats from the sport, will be playing in the Open has cast a pall over the event.
Murray has had enough. “I don’t care whether [the authorities] are seen to be doing enough; I care whether they are doing enough,” Murray said. “No sports are clean of doping and none are clean of fixing. And it’s not just sport. That’s life in general.
“People cheat; a lot of people cheat in other jobs as well. That’s the case, too. People do it in relationships as well.
“It’s just about when it does happen, you want people to be prosecuted, you want them to be banned and you want them to be found out. I as a player can’t ban people. It’s up to the authorities to do something about it. And you just want to make sure that they are.”
What has become crystal clear over the past few days is that the players are pretty much in the dark about what is going on. They know the Integrity Unit investigates betting patterns surrounding certain matches and that the finger of suspicion points at some players – but Murray does not know which matches and which players have been investigated.
“As a player I would like to know,” he said. “I would really like to know. In some ways you have to protect some players. In some cases – I’m not saying in all cases – in some cases, a player hasn’t done anything wrong so if names come out and someone is innocent then that also does kind of stay with you, I think, for your career. But selfishly, I would like to know the names and the matches so that I could watch the matches myself and make up my own mind by watching. Because as a professional, I think you could tell.
“I haven’t personally played a match where I’ve thought something was up. And I haven’t really watched a live match and thought ‘this is being fixed’. I’ve heard about certain matches where something might have been going on, I’ve watched them and watched replays of them, and as a player, I’ve thought ‘that doesn’t look right’. Because we as players can see if something was going wrong. And I would actually like to know if there was any match that I was involved in that had had irregular betting patterns or anything like that. I would like to know about that as well.”
On Monday, Novak Djokovic revealed that members of his team had been approached by match fixers in 2007. Offering $200,000 to rig a match at the St Petersburg Open, they got short shrift from Djokovic’s team and never got anywhere near Djokovic himself. But not all players are as strong-minded as the world No 1, nor as talented. A young player struggling on the bottom rungs of the rankings ladder, earning chicken feed in the smallest tournaments on the circuit – a player like that may be tempted. Murray wants more to be done to support them to show them exactly what they are getting into.
“Players could be better educated at a young age,” he said. “This issue goes right from the lowest level to the top and there are 15 and 16-year-olds playing in tournaments who need to know that these things can destroy their careers and ruin the integrity of the sport.
“When people come with those sums of money, when you’re that age, you know, I think sometimes people can make mistakes. I do think it’s important that from a younger age players are better educated and are made more aware of what they should do in those situations and how a decision like that can affect your career, can affect the whole sport. You should be learning about those things from 15, 16, 17 years old and being warned about it. Players need to be educated and have the right people to support them in those situations, I think.”
In the wake of all the allegations, the tennis has seemed almost secondary at the Open this week. Murray, though, was focused and efficient as he dismissed the challenge of Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 yesterday to set up a second-round appointment with Sam Groth. The Australian has the biggest serve in the world – 163.4mph recorded at a Challenger event in South Korea in 2012 – and he likes to come racing into the net behind it.
“I’ll be ready for that,” Murray said. “I normally enjoy playing against the guys that come forward so hopefully I can return well and pass well. I’ll need to if I want to win.”
Compared to all that has been going on so far this week, taking on a big bloke with a big serve will be the least of Murray’s worries tomorrow.