Controversy seems to be stalking tennis like a shadow. In a latest blow to the beleaguered sport still grappling with allegations of widespread match-fixing, a report on Tuesday in Guardian newspaper claimed two international tennis umpires have been secretly banned while four others may be thrown out of the sport for life on charges of serious corruption.
According to the report, betting syndicates allegedly bribed umpires from Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine in exchange for manipulating live scores on ITF’s Futures Tour which then allowed gamblers to place neat little bets since they were already sure of the outcome of the next point.
Kazakhstan’s Kirill Parfenov was banned for life in February last year while Croatia’s Denis Pitner was slapped with a one-year ban last August but both cases were kept under wraps.
Parfenov, the Kazakh official, reportedly tried to manipulate the scoring of matches by getting in touch with contacts through Facebook while the Croatian frequently logged on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches, according to the report.
Details of the probe and the resultant penal action were never released in public domain. The tennis authorities preferred to alert only a small number of tournament directors and national federations, said the report.
The development brings renewed focus about the extent of corruption in tennis and raises fresh concerns about lack of transparency in the governing body.
The sport was thrown into turmoil during the Australian Open this year when world No.1 Novak Djokovic made a stunning revelation that he was approached to fix a match earlier in his career.
Talking to reporters in Melbourne on 19 January, Djokovic said: “I was not approached directly. I was approached through people that were working with me at that time… Of course, we threw it away right away. It didn’t even get to me, the guy that was trying to talk to me, didn't even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.
“Unfortunately in those times (there were) rumours, some talks, some people were going around. They were dealt with.
“In the last six, seven years, I haven’t heard anything similar. I personally was never approached directly, so I have nothing more to say about that.”
Djokovic’s comments came after the BBC and BuzzFeed cited “leaked files” to claim that players who had reached top 50 had been repeatedly suspected of fixing matches but had never faced action.
It led to all tennis authorities — the ATP, WTA, ITF and the heads of all four Grand Slams —announcing an independent probe into cases of alleged corruption.