x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sinister threat of match-fixing lurks in shadows

Match-fixing remains a dark shadow looming over the sport. It remains hard to know when the plots of gamblers first sullied the sport.

Match-fixing remains a dark shadow looming over the sport. When the Serbian, David Savic, was given a lifetime ban last week for attempting to fix matches, it seemed to indicate that the game's authorities are maintaining their vigil while also pointing out a melancholy need to do so.

Savic, 26, was found guilty by the Tennis Integrity Unit of three violations of the sport's anti-corruption rules pertaining to "contriving or attempting to contrive the outcome of an event".

The Austrian, Daniel Koellerer, received a lifetime ban in May on similar charges, and he was a higher-profile figure in the sport - a former Davis Cup performer, who once was ranked No 55 in the world. Savic never got higher than 363rd and never played at a level higher than the Challenger division.

It remains hard to know when the plots of gamblers first sullied the sport, but events surrounding Nikolay Davydenko in 2007 brought the issue to the forefront.

After the Russian had won the first set over Martin Vassallo Arguello, in Poland, nine people in Russia wagered US$1.5 million (Dh5.5 m) that Davydenko would lose the match. He withdrew in the third set, citing an injured foot.

Davydenko was exonerated after an inquiry lasting more than a year, but his higher profile brought home the chilling dangers to the game.

The idea of a professional athlete contriving to throw a match is unpleasant to consider, but tennis is well-served by hoping for the best but expecting the worse.