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Tennis Australia fights back against match-fixers

Australian Open 2017
A YEAR on from one of the biggest gambling scandals ever to rock tennis, Tennis Australia boss Stephen Healy has come out on the front foot against potentially corrupt players.

Healy told The Australian this week that authorities had clamped down on match fixing, saying Tennis Australia had reinforced its integrity unit in response to the claims made against several players competing at last year’s tournament.

Allegations emerged against several top 50 players – who were playing in last year’s tournament – that they had been involved in fixing results.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic came out and confirmed he had been approached by match fixers in the wake of the claims.

Those allegations came on the first day of the open, overshadowing the tournament itself, and it is still a bitter pill for Healy.

“The truth is that there was nothing new that was announced there and it was very publicity-driven, but I think we acted appropriately in setting up the independent review panel,” Healy said.

One of the problems that has continually emerged in the fight against match fixing and corrupt practices is the level of money paid in low end tournaments.

Weaker players struggling to make ends meet could be more tempted by the dirty dollar.

And Healy says he has championed the cause of those weaker players, with big increases in the prize money at the Australian Open – up to $50 million.

“If you look at the grand slams and the prize money that is paid, it is a very large amount of money, especially for a two-week event,” he said.

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“But I think when you look at it in the overall context of where the sport is, as a sport we are a long way behind in player earnings, once you get outside that top group, of American professional sports or English Premier League, or whatever it is.

“We did consult with the ATP, so that those guys between 100 and 200 (who) do it pretty tough — we want depth in the sport and we are very supportive of those guys earning a decent remuneration.”

The International Tennis Federation launched an independent review into how its governing bodies tackle corruption in the sport following the revelations last January.

That review is slated for completion in March and Healy had discussions with the panel running the inquiry.

“I think they have done over 250 interviews and there has been a significant amount of money spent,” he said.

“We have undertaken to implement all of the changes recommended and to fund them, so I think we have done everything we can on a global basis and to that degree, we have appointed a couple of anti-corruption officers ourselves who will supervise anything that is sanctioned in Australia.

“We have educated all of our players, so I think we have done everything we possibly can to protect ourselves against corruption.

“I think ultimately the report will be very good.”

With only a couple of weeks to go before the open, Healy knows all too well the perils of match fixing in the game and has had to fight off detractors of Tennis Australia’s partnership with gambling giant William Hill.

Under the agreement, Tennis Australia has convinced William Hill to allow it to remove sponsorship signage from the Melbourne Park courts.

“A number of events are quite openly sponsored by gambling companies, but virtually all of the bodies have arrangements to receive warnings of suspicious betting alerts from companies, so they all receive data,” he said.

“Ours went slightly further in terms of signage and it was mutually agreed to take that down this year.

“But the arrangements with gambling companies are valuable to us because they have very sophisticated systems in terms of tracking match alerts and their goals are aligned with ours, which is to stamp out something illegal.”

The Djoker shares favouritism for the Australian Open title with newly knighted pom Andy Murray, both men are at $2.63 with

They are the only two players in the men’s draw to have odds in single figures.

Big Swis maestro Stanislas Wawrinka is third on the line of betting, way out at $13 to start the tournament.

A fighting-fit Rafael Nadal is next, quoted at $15, with big serving Milos Raonic at $19 and ageing legend Roger Federer at $21.

Aussie Nick Kyrgios, back from his season-ending suspension is next cab off the rank at $26, sharing the same line as Kei Nishikori.

He has had his problems over the past couple of months, but, if he can put it all together, Kyrgios is as talented as anyone in the tournament. But that’s a big if.

Bernard Tomic is rated the Aussies’ next best chance in the market, but he’d be a flyer at best – you will get $101 out of the fiery Tomic, who is not always engaged in his sport.

Switching over to the women’s draw and, of course, it is the great Serena Williams who hold favouritism for this year’s tournament. With Ana Ivanovic retired and Maria Sharapova still serving a doping ban, the path is clear for Williams to snare her seventh Australian Open title – and first since 2015.

But she will have to deal with the super talented Angelique Kerber, who is a $5 second favourite, while Simona Halep is waiting in the wings at $9.

Those three are the only women under $10, with Spanish jet Garbine Muguruza on that line of betting.

Rising star Daria Gavrilova is the best Aussie chance, if you can call it that, way out at $126, while compatriot Samantha Stosur is on the next line – at $151. Put patriotism aside and look elsewhere, people.

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