Novak Djokovic hits raw nerve with tennis chiefs after latest controversial comments

Novak Djokovic 2023 US Open
Novak Djokovic after the 2023 US Open final

Novak Djokovic threatened to crack open a major talking point in tennis when he gave his views on gambling in tennis, with the topic now likely to fall under the microscope like never before.

Betting on tennis matches below the top tiers of the game has long been a contentious subject, with the scope for corruption huge when players are earning minimal amounts to play in events.

Non-ATP and WTA professional competition matches in Britain and America also sell feeds of their professional matches to betting sites and fund their events with that incoming.

Amid this backdrop, the consistent flow of suspensions for players found guilty of match-fixing confirms the game has huge problems with players who are struggling to finance their own careers and are tempted by the office to fix matches for those gambling on their matches.

Now Djokovic has made some radical proposals that would ensure the huge amounts of cash being generated by gambling in tennis have a direct financial benefit to the players.

“Because of the integrity of the sport we are not allowed as players to put any of the betting companies patches on our clothes clothes while we’re playing on the court and we do not get a fair share,” said Djokovic.

“When I say fair share I mean 50/50 at least with the tournaments that are allowed on the other hand to have the major sponsors from the betting world.

“So that’s as simple as it gets and for me, it’s completely unacceptable. Personally, I probably would not get a betting sponsor on my sleeve but I know that probably 95 per cent of the players would do that.

“I would support that but if that’s not allowed then what we would deserve to have is 50 per-cent of the share that the tournament gets from these sponsorship deals with with betting houses.

“Billions and billions of dollars are circulating on a weekly basis from the tennis tournaments on different levels.

“Players are, I feel, in a very underprivileged position in regards to that situation. That’s something that I feel like we need to talk about more.

“We need to raise the awareness about this issue to the players; in this particular area players are not benefiting at all and giving way too much of their own value into this, and the rest of the tennis ecosystem is obviously profiting from that and we just can’t allow this to happen anymore.

“This is a very significant value and chunk of the money that is it that is out there for players to get a hold of.”

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The notion that tennis is a sport free from corruption will not be sustainable if suspicions over match-fixing continue to arise at the current rate, with Djokovic calling on the game’s authorities to get a grip on the problem.

“That’s where I think the focus should be because being in the player Council of ATP for almost a decade, whenever we would address this subject what would normally surface in the discussion is the integrity,” Djokovic said.

“It’s like ‘we’ve got to fight to make sure that the sport stays clean. We got to make sure that the players are not cheating, they’re not betting, they’re not compromised,’ which of course I support and agree with, but there’s kind of a psychological game right that you focus on that and you don’t really talk about the main issue here, that us players need to be aware of.”

Tennis authorities at the highest levels of the sport will be wary of opening the debate over match-fixing and betting as the money being generated by this side of the sport is funding segments of the sport outside of the main tour level.

If Djokovic continues to speak about it, those benefitting from relationships with betting partners may struggle to avoid further scrutiny.