Bookmakers are concerned it may be widespread, John McEnroe is worried some players see it as "a cheap way to make a buck" and Andy Murray claims that "everyone knows it goes on". The problem for tennis, however, is that for all the recent allegations about match-fixing and illegal betting, nobody has provided the sport's authorities with evidence that the talk is anything more than hot air.
The Association of Tennis Professionals, concerned at a growing number of unsubstantiated headlines about corruption, yesterday threw the tennis ball firmly into the court of the accusers, some of whom have been willing to talk publicly but have been less than forthcoming in providing concrete evidence.
Players on the men's tour will now face disciplinary action if they fail to tell the authorities within 48 hours if they are approached to throw matches. If presented with any such allegations, the ATP says it will look into them with all the vigour it has shown in its continuing investigation into a match in Poland two months ago.
Betfair, the online betting exchange, voided all bets on a match at Sopot between Nikolay Davydenko, the world No 4, and Martin Vassallo Arguello, the No 87, after suspiciously heavy betting on the lower-ranked player, even when he was losing. Davydenko eventually retired with a foot injury. Both players deny any wrongdoing, but the ATP is still investigating and has employed two former Scotland Yard detectives to look into the case.
There have been a number of subsequent allegations of corruption, but the Sopot match remains the only case where a betting company has deemed it appropriate to cancel all bets. Gilles Elseneer has claimed he was offered ¿100,000 (£69,000) to lose at Wimbledon two years ago, his fellow Belgian Dick Norman said he had been asked to provide in-depth information on other players' fitness and the former British Davis Cup player, Arvind Parmar, said he was offered money to lose a match at a Challenger event.
The International Tennis Federation, which is responsible for the Grand Slam tournaments, investigated a match at Wimbledon last year after Betfair reported substantial betting on Richard Bloomfield to beat Argentina's Carlos Berlocq, ranked 170 places higher than the Briton. Bloomfield won, but the ITF investigation found no evidence of corruption.
"We require detailed information to enable us to mount an effective investigation," an ATP spokesman said yesterday.
"It's not fair on the rest of the sport for people to make damning accusations about corruption without providing evidence. If players have been approached about fixing matches but haven't informed us about it then they are letting the sport down."
The ATP was the first organisation after the Jockey Club to sign a memorandum of understanding with Betfair, under which the company passes on information both about suspicious betting and about individuals breaking tennis rules by gambling. The ATP, which has similar agreements with 13 other companies, has had an anti-corruption programme in place since 2003, forbidding players and members of their entourage from gambling. A recent article in L'Equipe, the French sports daily newspaper, quoted one player who estimated that up to 80 per cent of coaches regularly use online betting websites.
In London on Friday the ATP will meet the sport's three other main ruling bodies – the Grand Slam tournaments, ITF and Women's Tennis Association – with a view to establishing a joint "integrity unit" to combat corruption.
"We want to bring in experts in this area to review the sport and give us an idea of what is required to police it properly," the ATP spokesman said. "The different bodies have been united in their desire to fight corruption, but until now we've tended to go about it in different ways."
Gerry Sutcliffe, the Minister for Sport, welcomed the news. "Match-fixing totally corrodes the integrity of sport, so a hard line on cheats is vital," he said. "That's why we recently introduced new rules in the UK to tackle the problem, including a potential two-year jail sentence for betting cheats. Catching cheats requires a proactive approach like this and close co-operation with bookmakers and the authorities."
The ATP has asked Murray's agent, Patricio Apey, to arrange a meeting with the British No 1 to discuss his claims that it was easy to throw a match. "It's difficult to prove if someone has 'tanked' a match or not tried because they can try their best until the last couple of games of each set and then make some mistakes, a couple of double-faults, and that's it," Murray told the BBC. "Everyone knows it goes on."
Bribery claims: Online betting, off-key approaches
* Online betting site Betfair briefly delayed paying out after a 21 September match in which the world No 120 Mariya Koryttseva, of Ukraine, beat the world No 96 Tatiana Poutchek, of Belarus, in the quarter-finals of the Sunfeast Open in Calcutta. Around $1.5m [£756,000] was wagered.
* Arvind Parmar, the Briton, and the Belgian Dick Norman have both said they were offered bribes to throw Challenger matches.
* The Belgian Gilles Elseneer said he was approached at Wimbledon in 2005 and offered 100,000 euros [£69,000] to throw his match against the Italian Potito Starace.
* The Russian Dmitry Tursunov said he was approached twice last season with bribery offers.
* Michael Llodra, of France, received an anonymous call in the summer asking him to "be relaxed" in his next match.
* The veteran American Paul Goldstein said he was asked to influence the outcome of a match during the past two years.Reuse content