Just before the first ball was served at the Australian Open, BuzzFeed and the BBC released a report on the possibility of widespread match fixing in tennis. The report alleges that there is involvement among tennis' top-ranked players and that authorities are ignoring such evidence.
In case you haven't been paying attention, here are six takeaways:
1. This isn't new to tennis officials
Tennis authorities were informed of suspected match-fixing after a 2008 investigation found evidence at major tournaments such as Wimbledon. The report mentioned a group of about 16 unnamed players, all of whom have been ranked in the top 50. More than half of them reportedly played in this year's Australian Open.
2. The names of alleged match-fixing players won't be officially revealed
FiveThirtyEight's Carl Bialik noted, "the process by which tennis investigates alleged match-fixing is so secretive that it's impossible to judge the accuracy of authorities' response." The Buzzfeed-BBC report proves it's possible to evaluate data and raise questions about suspicious betting activity, but there are a host of other reasons a player could lose a match with big odds, such as injury, insiders passing knowledge to bettors, etc. It's difficult to prove matches have been thrown with data alone. Additional evidence such as texts and bank records can help. Without additional proof, tennis officials and reporters have declined to name suspected players.
3. Players are speaking out on the subject
Most notably, Novak Djokovic revealed that, in 2007, he was approached and offered about $200,000 to lose a first-round match. He said that he didn't attend the tournament and never considered taking the offer. "For me, that's an act of unsportsmanship, a crime in sport honestly."
Roger Federer referred to the BuzzFeed-BBC as speculation, saying, "I would love to hear names. Then at least it's concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it."
And Serena Williams noted that she hasn't witnessed of any match-fixing on her end: "I can only answer for me. I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard."
4. The scandal is becoming a big deal with the law
According to reports, the investigation's findings are headed to British Parliament. Kermode and those involved with the Tennis Integrity Unit could be called in to hearings. The TIU has disciplined players for fixing before, but the players implicated by these reports are still not expected to be made known to the public.
5. A gambling site suspended bets on a Aussie Open match
Suspicions have already cropped up at this year's Australian Open. A sports gambling site suspended betting on a relatively small-scale mixed doubles match after a large sum of money came in on the obscure match. Nearly all the bets came in for the pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot against Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero, an indication that the match might be fixed. Hlavackova and Kubot said they were questioned by the TIU. All four players said the match was not fixed. Kubot said he didn't think players should be named without proof of match-fixing. "If you don't have 100 percent proof of the player, you should not mention the name," he said.
6. Betting is a gray area in all sports, but tennis needs to act
Daily fantasy sites are at the forefront of conversation. Gambling has always surrounded the NFL. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has even discussed the benefits of legalizing sports gambling. Tennis is no newcomer to corruption, but the scandal needs to be handled quickly so the sport remains legitimate, writes Howard Bryant in an ESPN The Magazine column. "Tennis, like the other sports, is on the clock, and if its leadership feels the lack of hard evidence of match-fixing is reason to be indecisive, it needs to give baseball a call and get a history lesson about what happens when the idea of cheating hangs over its game."