The tennis match-fixing bubble burst this week as Buzzfeed News and BBC dug into disturbing details of widespread match-fixing at the professional level. More than 70 players are connected to suspected fixers. Grand Slam champions are among a core group of 16 players consistently linked, and one top-50 player at this year's Australian Open, which started Monday, is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set.
On Monday, in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic added fuel to that fire, as he recounted being offered $200,000 to lose a first-round match at a tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2007. Djokovic did not even attend the tournament, but the memory has stuck with him.
"I was approached through people that were working with me at that time," he said.
"It made me feel terrible because I don't want to be anyhow linked to this kind of -- you know, somebody may call it an opportunity. For me, that's an act of unsportsmanship, a crime in sport honestly. I don't support it. I think there is no room for it in any sport, especially in tennis.
Djokovic has tallied $94,251,218 in career prize money, second all-time to Roger Federer's $97,341,456. In 2007, Djokovic turned 20, and could have been tempted into cashing in. Based on his account, he believed in his career and the sanctity of tennis, and he turned down the money.
Djokovic is a bad example of a tennis player who would shave points, but his story is useful to understanding the problem within the sport. If the game's best player is openly recounting such an example, how can the ATP and WTA Tours deny match-fixing being a problem?
Roger Federer and Serena Williams took a more political approach to the issue.
"I would love to hear names," Federer said. "Then at least it's concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which slam? It's so all over the place. It's nonsense to answer something that is pure speculation. Like I said, it's super serious and it's super important to maintain the integrity of our sport. So how high up does it go?"
Williams added: "I can only answer for me. I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard. I think that as an athlete, I do everything I can to be not only great, but historic. If that's going on, I don't know about it. You know, I'm kind of sometimes in a little bit of a bubble."
Much of the Buzzfeed/BBC report surrounded a 2007 match between Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and Argentina's Marin Vassallo Arguello. Davydenko and Arguello's names were cleared a year later, but the situation has been scrutinized for nearly a decade, culminating in Sunday's piece.
Djokovic won his Australian Open first round match, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, over South Korean Hyeon Chung.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.