By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion
Welcome back to the Jensen Zone!
In the more than four decades that I have been playing tennis, I have seen every side of the game. It has been an honor to be part of this glorious game that reveals every ounce of your soul when you commit your everything into the fight to win. I have been a part of and witnessed some of the most historic matches and moments in tennis history: being a sparring partner in the U.S. Davis Cup failure in 1991 and victory in 1992; warming up Agassi for the final of his Wimbledon title and the first of eight majors in 1992; through massive injuries that blew me out of the game in 2003; covering the amazing Nadal/Federer Wimbledon final of 2008; and the three-day Isner marathon match at the Big W!
After so many legendary moments, I write you today, though, about a moment in the history of the game that will define the next 100 years in professional tennis — the match-fixing scandal that has been only whispers and is now a full-blown firestorm. How the leaders of the pro game attack this issue will determine a pathway of transparency and full disclosure, or it will fall victim to cover up and create a lack of integrity and perception by the millions of fans around the world.
I remember as a player in the mid-’90s starting to hear rumors of tanked matches by players who were match-fixing. This was the dawn of Internet gambling. While the world of tennis was coming up with cellphone etiquette, there was a storm cloud forming in the way you could bet on matches from around the world with just the click of your mouse. When the game moved into the mid-2000s, rumors became very clear of match-fixing and players were investigated. It seemed like the situation was random and under control. Then, about seven years ago, tennis worldwide found itself seeing spikes in certain matches, but also betting on individual sets, games and even points.
We are at the point where the top is being blown right off this alarming story, with the Tennis Integrity Unit flagging numerous players at all levels of play, including a Grand Slam champion.
My firm belief is that tennis must grab this match-fixing menace by the horns and squash any type of betting on individual points, games and sets. Any decent player can throw a point here or there, hitting the shots just wide or long of the line. By surveying the betting lines and seeing spikes in wagering on one player, it should be taken off the board and void all bets on that specific match.
What about the tennis players involved? This starts early as these players move up the minor leagues of the game where money is very tight. Even the smaller pro events are being bet on. Once a player takes the action to match-fix, they will be in the pocket of the corrupted source. Imagine if that young player in three years makes the big time in the game. Big stakes, big moments and big temptation while a player is helpless to what has happened because of being on the take in the past.
The pro game must come down with lifetime bans on any players, coaches or staff around the game who is proven to have been involved in this criminal business. This message must be absolute and lethal. The game of professional tennis is at its defining moment. The moves the leadership makes now will affect the ethical integrity of the sport.
My heroes of the game inspired me through their adrenaline and fire to be my very best and to find the most pressure-packed situations and conquer those moments. Pro tennis, get your act together and clean up this chemical spill of ethics for the generations of fans and champions to come.