I seriously doubt it.
Are there favorable draws and tournament schedules that we argue benefit some players unfairly, disadvantage others, etc.? Sure. But concerns about throwing matches seem best directed to some of the lower levels of competition. The recent multi-million dollar investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit yielded a damning report, allegedly, but again, aside from more definitive proof that Futures levels matches see some match-fixing and that this can be described as a kind of “breeding ground” for deeper corruption in the sport, we can sense that most if not all (higher level) ATP competition is match-fixing-free. Does writing that immediately crown me as king of the naive? Perhaps. I am puzzled on occasion, especially when players go out and take, for all intents and purposes, a giant dump on the court. But I suspect the players police this themselves a bit, especially in the bigger tournaments and matches.
Plus, in the bigger fields, among higher ranked players, the money is quite good. It’s the lower seeds and the aforementioned lower levels where the paltry remuneration and likelihood of corruption exist.
My title obviously points to a comparison between the ATP (professional tennis) and the NBA, which is about to kick-off its finals series between the Warriors and the Cavaliers. This is these teams’ fourth straight championship series. Golden State has won two of these meetings (2015 and 2017), while Lebron and his supporting cast took the title in 2016.
Rather than drive a deep dive into some kind of conspiracy theory, the way the two teams reached the finals was, for me, like clock-work. I carry-on with friends about some of these non-tennis sporting events (for all things tennis, I save such banter for YOU).
My point here and with the title is this final series was so predictable, but anyone could say what insight is there when the two teams were in the previous three championship series? They’re clearly the best teams, so what exactly is so surprising here?
I would have to concede that such a retort has legs. But I would carry-on (you know me) and talk about the slimmer hopes of Lebron’s Cavs given the roster shake-up in the off-season, etc. Look, there’s also a simple point to be made that such repetition goes against the odds. And two things could be true: these are the best teams, and this is pretty odd that the same two teams, against historical trends, continue to reach the finals.
My shortest take on this NBA corruption concerns the latter point, that this is historically quite unusual. Let’s say there’s no fix (which there probably isn’t, right?). Then the league is corrupt in at least letting the competitive balance get this fucked-up.
The Kevin Durant trade was obscene. All I need to say with regards to this “fix” is that the league has literally forbid some trades or free-agent signings because of this very issue: a trade might disturb or shift too much the competitive balance of the leauge. The Chris Paul to the Lakers trade that was vetoed by then commissioner Stern comes to mind.
Last thing here on this: Both teams (Golden State and Cleveland) played game 7s on the road in the semi-finals and, of course, won. But the manner in which they won was a little coincidental (of fishy).
Golden State played the Houston Rockets.
Here’s a quick clarification from The Ringer on what happened in that game that refers to that fishy smell:
Monday night, the Houston Rockets missed 27 3-pointers in a row in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. Houston’s 11-point halftime lead vanished as the team went 0-for-14 from 3 in the third quarter. The Rockets eventually lost 101-92 to a Warriors team that didn’t suddenly forget how to shoot.
Not sure if you follow basketball, but a team in the semi-finals of the league playoffs missed 27 3-pointers in a row, which is unreal. Further research reveals that they led the league in 3-point shooting, finished with the best record in the entire league; but suddenly couldn’t shoot, at all, at home, in the most important game of the season (the fact that they lost one of their stars to injury, by the way, only supports my suspicion).
The Celtics, the team playing Cleveland, who hosted that game 7 also had a sudden and poorly timed case of the yips. In that decider, the Celtics were 7 of 39 from 3. Their stud throughout most of the series, Terry Rozier, was 2-14 from the field, 0-10 from 3. Disaster.
Cleveland and Golden State were the picks for the finals for obvious reasons, I guess. But the way it all pretty much went their way just seemed too good, especially for a cynic like me.
I added to the chain of events by reminding my poor audience that this is a TV show, the NBA. Big dollars are at stake, and series going to seven games means massive financial gain for certain players in this big corporate state-of-affairs. Conspiracy theory?
I shrug, yearn for the days of Michael Jordan, and watch tennis.
Is tennis in a similar kind of schema? The fact that television does not play the same role makes me happy and less concerned. Sure there is some favoritism, as we said earlier, but these boys (and girls all you WTA fans out there) have to show-up and play some grueling matches, one-on-one, etc.
Having said that. When I have raged against the machine such as at the Nadal draw at the 2017 U.S. Open (that was historically awful, folks) or what I did to Macatee the other day (does this confirm a bias?), or what many have said about Federer’s scheduling at Wimbledon or the Aussie Open, etc., does this amount to some kind of “fix.”
I say no. The stars, in both (in all) sports drive the machine, the interest, and the dollar certainly. But in tennis, with a lose-and-your-out scenario, the margins are much thinner for some kind of predetermined outcome.
My fix on the tennis “fix” is for people like Macatee to shut-up, or tournament organizers to quit playing games with some of these draws.
The game tonight, game 1, between the Warriors and the Cavs was brilliant. Tough break down the stretch for Cleveland not to get that win on the road. Hopefully this is a long series. If the NBA has anything to do with it, which they do, we should have a long (seven game) series. 😉
Quick mention about some matches tomorrow.
Dimitrov v Verdasco should be good. Like I said, a few people like Fernando as a really tough out here (even though he’s not your prototypical Spanish clay maker). Dimitrov is coming-off a brutal five-setter, too, that saw American Donaldson even resort to the underhand serve (which we’ve discussed concerning Nadal):
Donaldson had another trick up his sleeve in that match, as well. I don’t have visual or written confirmation, but there was speculation that during one of the change-overs the American cracked a beer, which was tucked nicely away in a koozie. 😀
Anyways, Grigor v Fernando should be good.
Nishikori v Simon, Khachanov v Pouille, Bautista v Djokovic and Monfil v Goffin should all have some of that added R32 drama.
Thiem and Zverev should have an easier time in their respective matches tomorrow compared to their 2R matches. Good news as far as I’m concerned. We’ll see.
Djokovic v RBA could be a better tell on the Serb. The Spaniard, not a dirt-baller, has had a decent clay campaign, nonetheless, including R16 in MC, and QFs in Barcelona and Munich. Another straight-set win from Novak would continue to build that head of steam.
Again, we shall see.
Off to the mountains myself tomorrow to get high. Can’t wait.
All the best and thanks, as always, for reading.