There is a mushrooming scandal in professional tennis currently and, let’s face it, it’s not exactly big news in America. For years and years, apparently, tennis players have been approached by gamblers and offered money to throw matches. I know what you’re thinking: why isn’t he writing about more important things like The Office starting its new season? Or how good Jessica Simpson is looking again? All good points, but gambling in tennis is still a big deal, and you should care too.
So maybe now you’re wondering: people have been asking the best tennis players like Roger Federer to throw matches? Well, not exactly. This whole scandal blew up when fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko withdrew during a match in August in Poland due to “injury” and it just so happened that there were strange betting patterns and a heavy amount of money being placed on the match. A week later Davydenko was playing again and seemed to have no visible signs of injury. Now, the world’s number-three player, Novak Djokovic, was offered $250,000 to throw a match in Russia last year, allegedly by the Russian mafia. He ended up not playing in the tournament. However, most of the players who claim to have been approached by gambling interests are much lower-ranked than Davydenko and Djokovic. Guys like Federer make too much money to get them to drop a match, but the lower guys are more easily swayed by the possible monetary gain.
Though this scandal is fairly new as far as the attention it’s getting, gambling seems to be a semi-permanent part of professional tennis. It’s even made it’s way into women’s tennis. There are betting windows on the grounds at the Australian Open. A snarky person might say that’s the only reason to stay up and watch the Australian Open, but we certainly aren’t that type of individual…we swear. There’s even an NBA Draft-frozen-envelope-style conspiracy about the famed Bobby Riggs/Billie Jean King match in 1973. Apparently Bobby Riggs may have thrown that match and made a tidy profit betting on King. See? No way does a man lose to a woman at that level, even if he is 97-years-old like Riggs was in 1973. Also, gambling on tennis is big business. The British betting site Betfair expected $1 billion worth of business during this year’s U.S. Open.
Now, why should you care? Gambling is a major part of sports, as we all know. It’s something for fans to do that shows knowledge of sports without actually having to play them. It also has major implications for professional sports Americans really care about, like football and baseball. Pete Rose is already banned for life from baseball for gambling on games while he was managing. Paul Hornung was banned for a year for gambling while he was an NFL player. It’s pretty naive to think that many athletes in the major American sports haven’t been approached about, and even considered, throwing a game or shaving points.
This is the problem with gambling on sports: while it’s something fun for fans to do, it also has the power to take the honor and trust out of sports. While we’re watching, we believe that athletes are trying their hardest when they’re playing. Gambling makes it possible that they’re not. At least steroids mean the guys want to win.
Finally, we’re asking this question: tennis? Really? European gamblers can’t find a better sport to waste their money on and corrupt besides tennis? America has football, baseball, and basketball, but the most popular sports to bet on at Betfair are soccer and horse racing. Just one more reason why Europe sucks.
Oh, and by the way, McD’s college football picks come out tomorrow afternoon. 5-3 last week against the spread!