Ever since the Nikolay Davydenko betting controversy occurred last year Tennis gambling has come very much under the microscope of everyone connected to the sport, whether it be officialdom, players, followers or even the bookmakers. The truth of the matter however is that tennis betting has become one of the most popular forms of sport betting and for honest punters and genuine followers of the game, considerable profits are regularly made without resorting to corruption. For instance it had been reported that a punter made an in-play bet on Andy Murray to come back from 2 sets down and beat Richard Gasquet at the recent Wimbledon Championship. The bet was not significantly large but had it have been then maybe there would have been some serious issues raised. Murray was getting hammered by the Frenchman at the time and had looked a certain straight sets loser after the Frenchman played some of the most inspired tennis of the championship. Somehow Murray managed to find the strength of character, will and not least some excellent form and fought back to win the match in five sets, much to the joy of the very supportive Centre Court crowd. The point is that the Murray/Gasquet match was a big one, it received huge TV coverage and those who witnessed the match could testify quite comfortably that the Murray comeback was genuine and Gasquet%u2019s demise was as sad as it was unfortunate. It was an epic match and would have won the best match award save for the unbelievable final between Nadal and Federer. Unfortunately it is the low key matches that attract the match rigging speculation and when strange, unexpected results occur, then of course tongues will wag and fingers will point and the game that we all love is brought very easily into disrepute.
Perhaps the bookmakers should take a leaf out of the books of Las Vegas. They refuse any tennis bets unless it is a high profile game where there can be no questions raised concerning the integrity of the result. This is very commendable but is it fair to the true professional tennis backer? There are tennis followers who back the unexpected and very often these games are exactly those where question marks could easily be raised. The difficulty is that there is no full-proof way of combating the problem anyway, a good gambler will obtain as much information about any player that he would like to back or indeed back against. If that player simply had a late night, the night before, or had a slight injury, or couldn%u2019t be bothered to train then a good gambler would seize on this and make his play. Strangely Davydenko is one of those players that sometimes just can%u2019t be bothered and this will be reflected in his play. At the end of the day he has no need to become involved with match rigging, he is guaranteed to earn millions by virtue of being the number four ranked player in the world, so what does a loss here and a loss there mean to him %u2013 absolutely nothing!
Bookmakers have plenty to lose if they drop their defences but they know only too well that a rigged game is unlikely to involve a high profile player like Davydenko.
Quite rightly they look for the large bets placed on obscure matches at events such as the US Open and Australian Open and that is where the tennis authorities too should concentrate their efforts.
Rod Rowley is a tennis and golf journalist who has worked for many large UK media publications. Interests include almost every sport and in particular betting on them.