SW19 diary: Coy WTA raises fear with lack of transparency
Friday 26 June 2009
In May last year, a review into the integrity of tennis concluded that the professional game "is neither systematically nor institutionally corrupt" but
The Independent yesterday obtained the clearest evidence yet that the tennis authorities are involved in a systematic and institutional cover-up of information related to suspected malpractice.
Larry Scott is the chief executive of the women's tour, the WTA, and sources insist that he is one of the "good guys" who has long wanted any corruption rooted out, and for the game to be transparent about it.
Scott, 44, a former player, also has a record of being a candid, straight-talking operator. The following three on-record quotes from him early last year (before the integrity review) illustrate that.
1) "I've had players come to me to give me specific information about approaches that have been made to them. They've done the right thing in coming to me."
2) "We have got particular concerns about Russia, there's a lot of activity that comes out of there but it is not the only country."
3) "One has to assume that people running organised crime would be involved in trying to gain an advantage by corrupting the competition."
Scott also told a briefing last year attended by The Independent that "several" women's tennis matches had been investigated, "and we haven't found any evidence of any wrong-doing. I don't think we have a problem in women's tennis but I'm very much aware of the potential threat."
Fast-forward to yesterday, and a press conference here. With suspicious betting leading to markets being cancelled for a men's first-round match here this week, The Independent raised the issue of cover-ups with Scott, a former ATP employee who is about to leave the WTA for a new job.
We asked specifically about the number of cases investigated in women's tennis in the past five years, and the outcomes of those cases. His answer was crystal clear. "In terms of pointing to the number of cases, I don't have that off the top of my head that I can point to, but I'm happy to get you that information," it says in the official transcript.
This was at midday. At 5pm, an email from the WTA claimed Scott did not say he would provide details of cases over the past five years, and that he was, in fact "referencing information in the original review."
Nonsense. It was clear to a room of around 50 journalists what he had said. The authorities, including governing bodies of tours that effectively represent the players who might have been up to no good, simply do not want to tell anyone what they know. The Independent has already been told by an impeccable source that the outcomes of investigations into 45 dodgy matches (of unspecified gender, but most if not all involving men) will almost certainly never be made public.
The irony in Scott not providing the information he said he would is that women's tennis, by all accounts, is largely "clean". Few if any women have been called before the authorities and quizzed over suspect games, as The Independent knows has happened with some male players.
The other irony in the situation is that tennis is doing much, much more about potential corruption than most sports. But of course the game dreads the negative headlines that a proper catharsis entails.
As the WTA also said to The Independent last night: "As a matter of policy, the Tour does not comment on any past or on-going investigations that may or may not have occurred."
If that's not a cover-up or at the least a lack of transparency, then what is?
The marvellously helpful stewards here don't just assist humans. The Honorary Stewards' in-house bulletin yesterday revealed how officials parted the long queue outside Car Park 10 to allow a proud mother duck to lead her 10 ducklings into Wimbledon Park. Ahhhhh.
Jock on! Murray gets more British the better he plays
A website that is monitoring perceptions of Andy Murray's identity shows he is getting more British and less Scottish in the public's view the more successful he becomes. Further details can be found at: www.andymurrayometer.com.
The crowds are also getting behind Braveheart, almost as much as a small group of raucous Aussies had urged on Lleyton Hewitt earlier.
"Party every day until 6am, sleep during the day, and now I play these two days."
Svetlana Kuznetsova on her intensive physical and mental preparation for the tournament
"I want to go shopping and see London. Not tourism, though, because you get tired. I need just two, three hours to spend some cash."
... Kuznetsova again
"I put it in its own pile, away from the bills."
... wrote Andy Murray on his twitter page upon receiving a letter from the Queen
"I love playing in London, it's a lot of fun for me. It's like a second home. It's good to be back in the third round again."
Lleyton Hewitt speaking after trouncing Juan Martin del Potro
"He is one of my idols, and I say, 'You are in very good shape again, so I'm happy for you and good luck'."
Del Potro stays positive despite defeat
"It does not surprise me most of your players need wild cards. We're having the same problems in Australia."
Hewitt can relate to the problems with British tennis
"I've always been large, always been tall. I don't know anything about small."
Venus Williams believes that bigger is better, after easing through to the third round
Today Warm, but with showers and possible thunderstorms. Maximum temperature of 25C.
Outlook Warm with light showers tomorrow, again a high of 25C. Sunday will also be at risk of light showers, with a high of 26C.
BBC 2: 12.00-15.25, 17.50-20.00.
BBC 1: 13.45-18.00.
BBC 2: 20.00-21.00
Additional coverage on BBCHD and BBCi
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