Why Is Anyone Gambling On Tennis?

October 4, 2007 – 5:53 pm by McD

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!

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  1. 9 Responses to “Why Is Anyone Gambling On Tennis?”

  2. Uh, to make money?

    I’m as up for a Euro slam as anyone but I don’t think you did your homework on this one. Betting on sports is cool. Allowing betting AFTER THE EVENT STARTS is moronic. And that’s what happened here – Davydenko won the 1st set yet money still poured in on his relatively unknown opponent. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt – don’t think he threw it. But I think someone in his camp leaked the fact that he was having foot issues and might not finish the match – word got out and people thought it was worth the risk. So all the Euros (and Aussies – until this year they had betting stations at the Aussie Open) have to do is a) stop taking wagers after the event starts; b) limit the action on any single match.

    By Anonymous on Oct 5, 2007

  3. At least Tennis is finally doing some interesting things to celebrate history and generate more interest in the game. Check this out:


    By Joseph on Oct 5, 2007

  4. You are surprised that a British bookmaker’s top two sports are soccer and horses? You expect them to bet on baseball and football? And just so you know, betting on horses is pretty friggin popular here. I guess we all spend our weekends listening to people talk about their $5 10 team teaser enough to think that football betting is king. I am trying to figure out why you seem surprised that soccer betting would be huge in England.

    By Anonymous on Oct 5, 2007

  5. I’m not surprised, just disappointed in Europe’s crap sports scene. It’s all soccer and then nothing else worthwhile. Except for Hurling, but that’s just Ireland.

    By McD on Oct 5, 2007

  6. Oh, so if it is soccer you think it is crap. Real broadminded of you, that.

    In Europe soccer dominates, sure, but they also have professional rugby (union and league), cycling, tennis, golf, formula 1 and various other motor sports, basketball, volleyball, athletics, ice hockey, “team” handball, “field” hockey, water polo, etc., all of which are capable of drawing respectable attendance/ratings and the occasional gambler.

    However you wouldn’t know that if you simply rely on the English language media in Britain, who focus, naturally enough, on just British sport for the most part.

    By ddeane on Oct 5, 2007

  7. Just to be clear, my point is the sports scene in Britain is very different from the sports scene in continental Europe, and likewise Germany is very different from France, Italy is different from Spain, Sweden is different from Russia, etc. Europe has a very diverse and varied sporting culture.

    But again, you wouldn’t know that just reading English language sources. If you are basing your entire opinion on the British sports scene, you aren’t getting the whole picture.

    Anyway, even the British sports scene is more varied than you let on. I watch Sky Sports News on the Fox Soccer Channel, and the variety of sports coverage they give in a one hour show beats anything you can see on ESPN.

    American sports coverage is mind-numbingly uniform. There are basically three seasons; during basketball season it’s almost nothing but basketball (and maybe a little ice hockey); during baseball season it’s almost nothing but baseball coverage, and during football season it literally is nothing but football 24×7. You also get some NASCAR, and some golf, in season. You call that variety?

    Yes soccer dominates in Britain, but I’ve also seen plenty of coverage in British news media of both rugby union and rugby league, tennis, golf, cricket, darts, snooker, billiards, several different kinds of motor sports, cycling, athletics, badminton, and even coverage of many amateur sports that would never get the time of day on ESPN, ie “field” hockey, bowls, etc., as well as coverage of foreign American, Irish, and Australian sports not even played in Britain, ie, NFL, MLB, GAA, AFL, etc.

    When does the American sports media bother covering amateur sports, except during the Olympics? No, I don’t consider NCAA to be really amateur; a sports scholarship is just another form of payment. When does American media bother covering foreign sports, except recently with soccer, ie, the World Cup, etc, and then only grudgingly?

    There’s a great big sports world out there, and it ain’t inferior to American sports just because it isn’t shown on American sports media.

    By ddeane on Oct 5, 2007

  8. Excellent words on tennis spread betting. Any idea what other sport spread betting has good chances of winning for me?

    By Anonymous on Oct 31, 2007

  9. Tennis is a popular sport so its strange that there isnt more betting involved! And i do agree that after events start is crazy! Its just asking for trouble!

    By Football Betting Online on Nov 12, 2007

  10. I’m sure that gambling exists in tennis. It would be such an easy game to rig with only one person per side.

    By Dynamite on Dec 24, 2007

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