Fuming tennis star Djokovic hits out at fix claims
Novak Djokovic might have thought he was going to be asked only about his second-round victory over France's Quentin Halys in the Australian Open here last night, but instead the world No 1 found himself answering highly personal questions about match-fixing.
An Italian newspaper, Tuttosport, yesterday published allegations about Djokovic's 6-3, 6-2 defeat by Fabrice Santoro at the Paris Masters indoor tournament in 2007.
The Serb was asked whether he had deliberately lost that match. "It's not true," Djokovic replied.
"I don't know if you're trying to create a story about that match or, for that matter, any of the matches of the top players losing in the early rounds. I think it's just absurd."
Djokovic was aged 20 and world No 3 at the time of the Paris match, while Santoro was the world No 39. Djokovic had said afterwards that he was struggling after dental surgery to remove two wisdom teeth.
"I couldn't give my 100 per cent, not even 30 per cent of my possibilities," Djokovic said at the time.
"I'm still on medications. I didn't practise for a whole week. I only started practising two days ago. Physically, I'm not feeling at all good."
There were also suggestions that Djokovic might not have played in the Paris tournament but for the fact that he was in line to collect a bonus for appearing in all nine Masters Series tournaments that year.
Asked if he would take action against Tuttosport, Djokovic said: "I have nothing more to say, guys. If you have any other questions on any other subject, I'm ready to talk about this. I have nothing more to say."
Djokovic had previously explained how he turned down a bribe made to him in 2006, when he was offered 200,000 US dollars - £141,000 on the current exchange rate - to lose a first-round match in St Petersburg.
He said the approach never reached him as it was rejected by his team, but that it made him feel "terrible" and that match-fixing was a "crime in sport".
Asked if the latest allegations saddened him, Djokovic said: "Of course. You don't want these kind of subjects or speculations going around.
"I think that certain media is just trying to create a story out of it without any proof. So as long as it's like that, it's just a story. That's all."
The report follows an investigation carried out by the BBC and Buzzfeed, which claimed 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 were repeatedly flagged up to the sport's authorities over suspicion of match-fixing but no further action was taken.
On Tuesday, an unidentified former South American tennis player said on the BBC's World Have Your Say programme that fixing issues were "like a secret on the tour that everybody knows, but we don't talk about it. You know who is doing it, and who is not. We just see it and keep working''.
The Tennis Integrity Unit, under scrutiny after the BBC and Buzzfeed allegations, has called for any players who have concerns over possible match-fixing to come forward.
"The TIU and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason," the organisation said in a statement.
"We invite the player behind the allegations to make contact with the TIU and to share the information he claims to have.''
French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, meanwhile, has countered Andy Murray's criticism of betting companies sponsoring grand slams.
Wawrinka believes their involvement and co-operation should be a useful tool in preventing corruption.
A number of tennis events have been partnered by gambling companies in recent years, with William Hill a major sponsor of the Australian Open while the most high-profile tournament in Germany is known as the Bet-At-Home Open.
Wawrinka said: "Probably if they sponsor a sport, they are going to try everything to make sure there is no corruption.
"That can be maybe something good for tennis also. Maybe the gambling company can come to the tennis and make sure there is no corruption, because they lose a lot of money when there is a problem.
"For tennis, it's not good to have some corruption, but for the gambling company neither. So I think it can be only positive."
As for the action, Djokovic beat world No 187 Halys 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 to earn a third-round meeting with Andreas Seppi.