Djokovic denies claims of 'wanting to lose' match in 2007
For a second day at the Australian Open, the man winning the evening's headline match came into the interview room soon afterwards and was forced to field questions about match-throwing allegations.
After Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday, it was the turn yesterday of world No 1 Novak Djokovic. after his straight sets win over Frenchman Quentin Halys. This time, the source of the allegations was the Italian sports daily Tuttosport, but the details were as fuzzy as almost everything else we have heard during this week of hearsay and wild rumour.
"Until somebody comes out with the real proof and evidence, it's only a speculation for me," was Djokovic's response. "I think certain media is just trying to create a story without any proofs. So, as long as it's like that, it's just a story."
The Tuttosport article concerned a 2007 match in the Paris Masters at Bercy, where Djokovic had suffered a 6-3, 6-2 defeat at the hands of the then 34-year-old Frenchman Fabrice Santoro. In the headline, it made the bold statement that Djokovic "wanted to lose", yet failed to back up the claim convincingly. The only evidence seems to have been a remark from Swedish former player Tomas Nydahl, and even he had apparently picked up the story second hand.
What we do know about that match is that Djokovic was off-colour, having had his wisdom teeth out shortly beforehand, and short of energy after a draining season. One suspects that he might not have played the tournament at all but for an entirely valid financial incentive: the end-of-year bonus handed out by the men's tour to players who appear in all nine Masters events.
In fact, Djokovic admitted at the time that he had been unable to play to his maximum. "I couldn't give my 100pc, not even 30pc of my possibilities," he said after the match. "He deserved to win. I'm still on medications. I didn't practise for a whole week, I only started practising two days ago. Physically, I'm not feeling at all good. It's been a very long season and I'm really exhausted. I hope people will understand."
Djokovic was polite but firm last night as he specifically denied that he had lost the match on purpose. He added: "There hasn't been too many matches where top players lost in the last decade or so in the early rounds. You can pick any match you like that the top player lost and just create a story out of it.
"Especially these days when there is a lot of speculations, this is now the main story in tennis, in sports world, there's going to be a lot of allegations. I think it's not supported by any kind of proof, any evidence, any facts. It's just speculation.
"So I don't think there is a story about it. I think it's just absurd." (© Daily Telegraph, London)