Novak Djokovic has elaborated on an alleged approach made to him by match-fixers almost a decade ago before the 2007 St Petersburg Open, insisting that he was never contacted directly and felt 'terrible' to be in any way linked to the practice. The world number one and his team dealt with the problem instantly, but the issue of possible corruption in tennis has now been thrust into the public glare following the release of controversial details in a cache of documents investigated by the BBC in conjunction with BuzzFeed.
According to those reports, secret files supposedly reveal that 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been "repeatedly flagged" to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) due to suspicions that they may have fixed matches, yet all have been allowed to continue playing.
It is further claimed that a wider enquiry developed from an initial investigation into suspicious betting activity following a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello, both of whom were cleared of any wrongdoing, in 2007. The enquiry however "found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily making hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches investigators thought to be fixed". It is said that three of those contests took place at Wimbledon and that recommendations suggesting that 28 players should be investigated were not acted upon.
Djokovic was asked for his thoughts on the breaking scandal following his straight-sets victory over Hyeon Chung in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open in Melbourne and also spoke regarding that 2007 approach to his camp worth a reported $200,000 (£139,000). In the end Djokovic did not actually play in the tournament.
"I was not approached directly," he said. "Well... I was approached through people that were working with me at that time, that were with my team. Of course, we threw it away right away. It didn't even get to me, the guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn't even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.
"Unfortunately there were some, in those times, those days, 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.
"It made me feel terrible because I don't want to be anyhow linked to this. 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."
On the most recent revelations, Djokovic reiterated his opposition to match-fixing or corruption of any kind in tennis but denied that a shadow had been cast over the sport yet due to an absence of clear evidence against active players.
"I've heard about the story and I read that there were a couple of players mentioned who are not active any more," he added. "Talking about the matches that have happened almost 10 years ago.
"Of course, there is no room for any match-fixing or corruption in our sport. We're trying to keep it as clean as possible. We have, I think, a sport that has evolved, and have upgraded our programs and authorities to deal with these particular cases.
"I don't think a shadow is cast over our sport. People are talking about names, guessing who these players are. But there's no real proof or evidence yet of any active players, for that matter. As long as it's like that, it's just speculation."