(AP) — Andre Agassi says match-fixing in tennis “never even made my radar” while he was on tour.
The eight-time Grand Slam title winner, who retired from the sport in 2006, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that he never had any brush with the sort of corruption that was alleged in recent media reports and has been the main topic of conversation at the Australian Open.
Agassi also said he hopes – and believes – that tennis’s leaders will make sure match-fixing is not happening nowadays.
“I worry about that being a problem in any sport, because I think it poses an existential threat to the very fabric of what sports is about,” Agassi said. “I think every sport needs to take that incredibly seriously.”
The BBC and BuzzFeed News published reports this week saying tennis authorities failed to thoroughly investigate evidence of match-fixing involving more than a dozen players who have ranked in the top 50 over the past decade. No players were named in the reports.
“In 21 years I played professionally, I can say, either based on my naivete or my focus on trying to be the best in the world, that it never made my radar at any stage in those 21 years,” Agassi said. “So I don’t know if I was unreachable, untouchable or just purely in my own world, but it never even made my radar, whatsoever.”
In Australia, where the year’s first major tournament began Monday, representatives of tennis’s governing bodies held a news conference to deny that any evidence connected to match-fixing was suppressed. During the Australian Open’s early rounds, player after player has left the court and headed to a news conference where the main line of questioning centers around corruption in their sport.
Roger Federer, owner of a record 17 major titles, called the reports “pure speculation,” pointing out the lack of details, including the names of any players purported to be involved.
Current men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic retold the story of an episode in Russia in the mid-2000s, saying members of his entourage were approached about having him intentionally lose a match.
“Of course, we (rejected) it right away. It didn’t even get to me,” Djokovic said.
Agassi thinks the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation should look into the broader issue.
“I do believe and assume that the organizing bodies of any sport would treat this (subject) with the seriousness that it deserves, to protect the integrity of the game and also the fans of the sport,” Agassi said. “It needs to be treated that way. And it sounds, based on the reports and the conversations about it, that it will be addressed as such.”