Novak Djokovic says he was approached to fix tennis match early in career
BBC, BuzzFeed News say secret files expose corruption at sports' highest level
World tennis number one Novak Djokovic said a member of his staff was approached about fixing a match early in his career, and he questioned whether betting companies should be allowed to sponsor big tennis tournaments.
The reigning Australian Open champion was speaking after the sport was rocked by allegations that the authorities had failed to deal with widespread match-fixing as the tournament kicked off on Monday.
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Djokovic said that as far as he was aware there was no longer a problem with what he described as a "crime in sport" at the top level of tennis, but added that he had once been approached indirectly to throw a match.
"I was not approached directly, I was approached through people that were with my team," he said, after cruising through his opening match at the tournament against South Korean teenager Chung Hyeon on Monday.
"Of course, we threw it away right away. The guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn't even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.
"Unfortunately, there were some, in those times, those days, rumours, some talk, some people were going around. They were dealt with. In the last six, seven years, I haven't heard anything similar."
In 2007, Djokovic said an approach had been made offering him $200,000 US to throw a match at the St Petersburg Open in Russia, a tournament he did not ultimately play in.
The 28-year-old Serb said that although he was confident there was no longer a problem at the top level, he could not speak for further down the tennis rankings.
In the reports published before the tournament began Monday, the BBC and BuzzFeed News alleged that the Tennis Integrity Unit, the sport's anti-corruption body, had failed to thoroughly investigate a core group of 16 players that bookmakers, foreign police and other investigators had warned it about, which included winners of singles and doubles Grand Slam tournaments.
The reports said that none of the players had faced any sanctions and more than half would be playing at this year's Australian Open. The players weren't identified by name.
Betting sponsors 'a fine line'
Djokovic was also asked about the propriety of betting companies being sponsors of major tennis tournaments, even if there had never been allegations that such companies were involved in any wrongdoing.
William Hill became the first "official wagering partner" of the Australian Open last year, and this year advertisements for the British bookmaker adorned the three main showcourts at Melbourne Park for the first time.
Critics, who say the relationship sends out the wrong message, have called on Tennis Australia to end it, and Djokovic said there should at least be a debate.
William Hill and Tennis Australia did not have immediate comment to make.
"Well, this is a subject for discussion, I think, today and in the future," Djokovic said. "It's a fine line. Honestly it's on a borderline, I would say," he added.
"Whether you want to have betting companies involved in the big tournaments in our sport or not, it's hard to say what's right and what's wrong.
"One of the reasons why tennis is a popular and clean sport is because it has always valued its integrity," he added.
"I think especially in the grand slams that are and always have been the most valued and respected and known tennis tournaments around the world throughout the history of this sport.
"It's hard to say. I don't have yet [a] clear opinion about that. I think it is a subject of discussion. We'll see what happens."
With files from The Associated Press