Multiple tennis players are speaking out against social media attacks levied by persons who are allegedly gambling on matches and frustrated from losing.
Over the past year, numerous tennis stars, the majority of which are women, have revealed threatening messages they’ve received on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
According to a CNN investigation, sports betting has surged on the sport, and with it, so has online abuse. After losing their bets, some disgruntled gamblers are taking their frustrations out on the player they see as responsible for their bad luck.
CNN has complied a series of hateful screen grabs, most of which are laden with profanities.
After Nicole Gibbs, a 23-year-old American who reached her best singles world ranking of #68 in July, lost in straight sets at the Moscow Open, a Twitter user sent her a sinister tweet. “You are so f***ing bad. I hope you die slowly, but f***ing painfully,” the message read.
Madison Keys has been the victim of similar experiences. The first American woman to debut in the top 10 since Serena Williams, the 21-year-old said in a recent Instagram post, “The amount of abuse we get after losing a match is ridiculous.”
It’s estimated that nearly $24 billion was wagered at online sportsbooks in 2016, with 13 percent generated by tennis.
Tennis isn’t the only professional sport to have been engaged in public controversy. The National Football League had players protesting the national anthem earlier this year, and erratic off-field behavior is a constant in the football culture.
Major League Baseball endured a long period where steroid use was rampant. The National Basketball Association has weathered plenty of on-court fights including the most notorious incident when Ron Artest went into the stands to punch fan in 2004.
But tennis’ polemics seem to rest with sports betting and match-fixing. In 2016, a whistleblower exposed documents showing 16 players being suspected of throwing matches, and league officials doing little in response.
A BuzzFeed/BBC investigation claimed match-fixing is a widespread problem and has been covered up by the sport’s governing bodies. The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) rejected those allegations.
“Tennis remains fully committed to meeting the challenge that all sports face from corrupt betting practices,” TIU board member Chris Kermode responded. ” We have stringent procedures and sanctions in place to deal with any suspected corruption.”
Whether the vulgar social media attacks are being carried out by bettors who think the player threw the match, or simply a gambler upset at his or her loss, pros believe tennis needs to make drastic changes. Certain stars say gambling sites shouldn’t be allowed to sponsor tournaments.
In Australia, where gambling on sports is legal, two of the biggest books, William Hill and Betway, sponsor some of tennis’ marquee events.
“We don’t see the correlation between bookmaker sponsorship and internet bullying, which unfortunately exists in all walks of life,” Betway said in a statement.
Regardless, the Australian Open, one of the sport’s four majors, removed William Hill signage from its courts. The Open is currently being played in Melbourne, and the biggest storyline thus far is the shocking upset of six-time champion Novak Djokovic.