This er, isn't a happy fic? As in, I was writing it as a distraction from my block on evening and I made myself so sad, I wrote 15k of ridiculous wingfic to cheer myself up. It's hard to tag when it's very much a rough wip and only a small part of it, but it'll get worse before it gets better so maybe don't sign in to read the whole thing if you don't like a generous scoop of angst with your hurt/comfort. This first part is pretty tame though, no warnings necessary.
The Downfall of Novak Djokovic: Former Tennis Number One Found Guilty in Match Fixing Scandal
Nick Phillips, Reuters, Nov 8th 2017
Former top-ranked tennis player and global superstar, Novak Djokovic, 30, was found guilty today in the ongoing match fixing scandal that has consumed the world of professional tennis since June. First arrested in London on July 5th, Djokovic has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing throughout the case, and seemed stunned at today’s verdict and sentencing.
In a landmark decision, Djokovic’s conviction for conspiracy to commit sport fraud came with a minimum jail sentence of five years. Previously, match fixing investigations in tennis leading to successful convictions have been few and far between, and most have carried the penalty of lifetime bans from the sport. However, since evidence of widespread illicit activity regarding match fixing was revealed by the BBC in 2016, including accusations of cover ups and mishandling from the organisations responsible for pursuing suspicious betting activity, authorities had already decided to make the consequences for illegal match-fixing more severe.
Djokovic is the first case under the new rules. It is difficult to say whether the five year sentence was intended to set an example to others – Djokovic is the most high-profile tennis player ever found guilty on sport fraud charges – or in reaction to the substantial financial gains involved in the case, which has been revealed as ongoing under the Tennis Integrity Unit since Djokovic’s surprising downturn in form in July 2016. Previously the dominant tennis player in the world, his losses in early rounds raised questions throughout the sport regarding his dedication and training. It was only at his arrest at the Wimbledon Championships this year that tennis authorities revealed they had been investigating suspicious betting patterns around his matches that began around the same time as his run of unexpected losses.
As he was escorted from the court by officers Djokovic refused to speak to waiting reporters. Most of his family also declined to comment but his younger brother Djordje Djokovic, a former tennis player who was visibly upset throughout the sentencing, remarked;
‘This is unbelievable. Novak has always insisted he is innocent and the evidence provided is not convincing to anyone. He is being made an example of by the tennis authorities for no reason and we intend to fight this outrage every step until everyone realise this is wrong.’
Although as a player Djokovic spent substantial time in the luxurious haven of the super-rich, Monte-Carlo, and his match fixing took place on an international scale, he will serve his entire jail sentence in his home country of Serbia...’
Hunched over on the bench in the temporary locker room, Andy has to close his eyes to block out the rest of the article. The phone creaks in his hand all the same, plastic flexing in his grip and for a wild second he’s tempted to stamp it underfoot as if that’ll help, as if destroying it will make the news vanish too.
Almost he wishes he hadn’t seen it so quickly. The alert flashed up on the phone screen as he was changing for the exhibition, keeping an eye on it because he’d been expecting to hear for hours and as soon as it pinged he’d snatched it up and retreated, away from Jamie teasing Roger about patenting the SABR as a source of income post-retirement, bullshitting nonsense because they’re all wound tight from pretending it’s a normal day. Tucking himself into a huddle on the farthest bench, he’d held his breath as he thumbed open the link and clenched his teeth against the urge to shout when he read the headline.
The last time he’d talked to Novak, three weeks ago, he’d laughed when Andy mentioned the possibility of a jail sentence. He’d been holed up in Belgrade still, out on bail and staying in a house rented under an assumed name to avoid the flocks of reporters, casually dismissive of the outcome.
‘Is all lies, Andy,’ he’d insisted over the crackly long-distance connection, ‘all circumstantial and a stupid farce. It will all be fine just in time for me to make the Finals, yes? You better be ready to practice with me all hours because I am getting fat, sitting here watching cartoons. This will be worst off-season ever with all the catch up training but hey, six months off work for Roger. I beat you all when I get back you know?’
Neither of them acknowledged the fragile edge to the words, or the way Novak kept running out of breezy small talk, leaving wide silences in the conversation that Andy struggled to fill. He’d offered up the latest tour gossip, asked after Pierre and what Belgrade was like in the autumn, even though Novak’s told him a hundred times before. It was easier to rerun old conversations, give Novak the space to be distracted.
And it kept them away from more dangerous ground – such as the real reasons why Novak was hiding in a nondescript house too afraid to go outside to practice. Andy’s been following the Google alerts, even if Novak pretends not to take it seriously; he’s seen the blurry videos of eggs thrown, the angry fans getting in Novak’s face when he tried to go for a run. Seen photographs of the charred ruin that was the front door at Novak’s parents’ house, where he’d been staying before someone passing had thrown a Molotov cocktail.
Serbia had defended Novak vehemently for the first few weeks but as the case dragged on, evidence splashed across increasingly-vicious newspaper headlines, belief ebbed away until it turned to anger. Novak had been held up as the shining example to a battered country, their prodigal son. General sentiment now, spilling out in the tweets Andy can’t stop himself running through Google translate, is that he deserves every scrap of punishment on offer for throwing that away.
But five years.
They’d joked in August, Andy remembers, before the tone of the press coverage soured and Novak’s laugh still sounded genuine, about Sharapova and bans that’d be over before anyone noticed them in the first place. Called it an enforced vacation, teasing at how Novak was getting to catch up on Westworld, finally.
Five years isn’t a nothing ban; it’s career-ending. They’re both thirty, and coming back after that long away would be difficult at twenty-five, creeping toward impossible with every extra year.
Except, Andy realises with a jolt, Novak won’t be able to come back ever. He’s going to spend five years locked in a Serbian jail, in a country where everyone knows his face and thinks they know what he’s thrown away. Practising his serve isn’t going to rank highly on the list of priorities.
It’s Roger asking, hovering tentative on the fringes of Andy's awareness. Glancing up, he's met with the Swiss' concerned frown, Jamie behind him and both of them a careful distance away as if to avoid crowding him; distantly, he realises that he must look awful. He feels like he’s been hit by a bus.
'They’re ready for us,' Roger says, and hesitates. 'Are you okay?’
‘Ready?’ Andy says blankly before he remembers. The exhibition, his name up all over Glasgow and thousands of people waiting to see him lark about with Roger. Thousands of people with smartphones so the news must be sweeping through the crowd right now in a susurrus of shock, Novak’s name echoing from the rafters.
And he has to walk out there and pretend it doesn’t bother him? Play tennis, even exhibition tennis, as if his mind isn’t in another country entirely?
Right now, he doesn’t think he can even move off this bench.
Roger’s studying him with the unreadable, contemplative look that’s faced Andy across the net countless times. Briefly, the uncharitable thought that Roger never liked Novak flashes across his mind before he squashes it; finding someone aggravating the way Roger and Novak did, clashing personalities rubbing each other relentlessly abrasive as sandpaper, doesn’t mean wanting something terrible to happen to them.
‘Novak,’ he manages, feeling it stick to his dry throat. Something changes in Roger’s calm expression, a flicker of concern and it braces Andy enough to get the words out. ‘They gave him five years.’
From over Roger's shoulder, Jamie frowns at him – baffled rather than shocked, still twirling his racquet idly in his hand. Not getting it.
'That sucks, but why ban him for five? May as well be a lifetime ban if they were serious about it. Five years, he’ll appeal and be back in two, so what-’
‘It’s not a ban.’ Roger cuts him off, quietly in the way he has, still watching Andy’s face as if he’s waiting for the catch. For Andy to spring up and shout april fool, had you there. ‘They really did it? They gave him the entire time?’
‘Five years,’ Andy repeats and can’t meet Roger’s sympathy, Jamie’s dawning disbelief, and he lets his phone drop to the bench, bends over to rest his face in his hands so he can pretend it’s all a bad dream and the real world still makes sense, is still sure and steady beneath his feet rather than crumbling around him.
Six months ago he’d been on the VIP roof terrace of their fancy hotel, with the midnight lights of Rome spread like a field of glitter at their feet and casting soft shadows across Novak’s smile, catching sparks on the bubbles of the champagne they’d allowed themselves for this. Offering up his glass – the cheap water tumblers from their hotel rooms, because Novak brought champagne and Andy brought gluten-free cake and neither of them considered logistics like utensils – Novak had grinned the same grin that’s underpinned Andy’s entire life since he was twelve, and said ‘To us, one and two at thirty. We said we would and we keep the promise. Life has not gone so bad eh?’
Andy doesn’t understand how that moment can exist in the same universe as the numb, creeping shock of this one.
Roger murmurs something inaudible. The answering silence from Jamie suggests they’re making mute who’s going to deal with this fucking problem faces at each other before Andy hears one of them walking away, no doubt to go placate the several thousand people baying for a piece of their Swiss maestro while Jamie talks his brother down off his ledge with the quiet, conciliatory tones everyone’s been using on Andy since July.
Sure enough, Andy hears a sigh and the bench creaks with extra weight, the warmth of a shoulder bumping his. Muffled into his hands, he says,
‘Don’t bother, Jamie. Whatever you’re going to say, I’ve heard it.’
‘Really?’ Roger says. ‘Perhaps then I only sit here silently until the crowd riot because we’ve stood them up. That will be the best way to help Novak, to cause a scene.’
Before he remembers who he’s talking to, Andy’s already made a derisive noise into his palms – after the initial flash of guilt, he decides he doesn’t care so much about greatest evers today and straightens up, rubbing at his face. At least it isn’t Jamie this time; he’s afraid one more round of ‘You have to admit it looks bad, Andy,’ will conclude with him punching his brother in the face for the first time since he was eleven years old.
‘What do you care about helping Novak?’ he asks. Still angry, because Roger’s offered non-committal side-steps to every journalist who mentioned Novak all summer, and flat refusals to comment since autumn.
Not saying he thinks Novak’s guilty but not saying he isn’t, either, and getting away with it where the rest of them wouldn’t get the leeway because he’s Roger-fucking-Federer, even when Andy’s heard the journalists cursing him outside the press rooms, when Andy himself yelled at him during their utter trashfire of a US Open semifinal. It comes out bitter when he adds,
‘You think he did it, don’t you? You weren’t even surprised.’
‘I was surprised,’ Roger disagrees mildly. He leans back against the chipped plaster of the wall as if it’s the finest chair, the picture of a relaxed tennis god in repose but his eyes are dark with concern when Andy glances at him, and away quickly, because the pity stings like salt on raw skin. ‘What do you think?’
‘I don’t think he did it if that’s what you’re fucking asking,’ Andy snaps.
Roger shrugs. ‘Neither do I, for certain. You, you have glared at everyone since summer,’ he adds when Andy startles back to stare at him, ‘it makes everyone wary of voicing opinions. Also, we needed someone who was not seen to be biased either way, high up in tennis, so when we have a reason to argue there are people still listening.’
He smiles at Andy's shock, quirked and a little tired, lines that Andy hadn’t noticed a year ago crinkling. ‘Why are you surprised when someone agree with you? This is bad for tennis, Andy, if he do it, is even worse if it is all wrong.’
‘It’s worse then,’ Andy says. The tightness to it bends his accent sharp enough to make Roger frown, concentrating hard to pick up the words like Novak used to have to when they were younger. ‘Because it doesn’t matter if he didn’t do it, they think he did. He’s still-’ locked away, caged, ‘-it’s all a fucking mess anyway.’
‘It is. However, hiding in a locker room will do nothing for that.’
Andy wants to leap up and walk out, wants to punch things – punch Roger, with all his resigned calm – in wild, hopeless rage. He settles for running a hand through his hair, tugging hard enough to hurt.
‘So I shouldn’t be fucking furious?’ he snaps, flat with tightly-controlled desperation. ‘Should go to press, tell everyone it’s a shame, whatever, life goes on because going out there and pretending that this is all fine will be so much better-’
Roger raises his eyebrows, implacable. Unwavering. ‘If you wish to scream at everyone for the next five years, go ahead. Some people may even listen. It will not do Novak much good, however.’
‘Nothing will-’ Andy’s voice trips over the lump in his throat and vanishes, swallowed up by the mortifying urge to burst into tears. In front of Roger, again, of all people and he dips his head forward to stare at his tennis shoes and breathe, pretend that he’s just thinking it over.
Fails of course – it’s Roger – and Andy feels a hand come to rest on the back of his neck, warm and grounding.
'Andy,' Roger says, 'we can fix this.'
He sounds so certain, steady and utterly sure of himself in this as in tennis, that fucking weird confidence of knowing the world has aligned for him his entire life in a way it hasn't quite for Andy. Novak used to get the same tone occasionally, when it was looking like he might break every record with Roger's name on it, but it drove him nuts when Roger used it all the same.
Andy knows intellectually that he's had a charmed life, but it's always felt balanced on the cliff-edge of disaster. He's never felt certain of anything; certainly not this.
'How?' he demands, and the only thing he sounds is thick with unshed tears.
Roger's quiet for a minute. The pause allows the distant murmur of crowd noise to seep into the room, a faintly rising edge of discontent through the walls. They can't wait much longer.
'The thing I was thinking, all through this,' Roger says eventually, 'is how terribly sloppy they were, the people looking into this. No one track the money to Novak, no one prove he discuss anything. They rely on coincidence and sentiment, that people be angry enough not to look too hard. It was really a poor effort.'
He sounds almost disapproving, as if affronted by anyone not giving one hundred percent attention to ruining Novak's life and Andy bristles.
'Did you want them to try harder?!' he snaps. 'Clearly they were right, because it was enough!'
As if he hasn't spoken, Roger hums a meditative sound. 'It all make me think,' he says, 'what if someone were to look harder? The only thing they find really was the betting slip in his bag.'
'Novak said he'd never seen it before-'
'-so someone plant it,' Roger finishes and when Andy sits up, the Swiss meets his desperate look with an expectant one as if he's still three, five, a thousand steps ahead of Andy as always and waiting on him to catch up. 'You know Novak and his bags, how precious he is-'
'He's careful, not-'
'Precious.' Roger says with finality. 'Take them with him when he leave the room, take locker keys to the shower, as if all of us might steal his dirty socks. No one gets to touch them except him, his family, his team. Is not so big a handful of people to shake and see what falls out, you know?'
It's a reasonable angle but Andy's been running over this for months, staring sleeplessly at hotel ceilings as his thoughts circled every detail and he points out the obvious flaw he's not been able to explain:
'Yeah, but if someone else placed the bets they'd still need to know Novak was going to lose. If he didn't throw the matches on purpose, winning would just be plain luck.'
'Maybe.' Roger frowns, not thrown but obviously mulling something over. For the first time Andy feels the tiniest flicker of hope spark to life beneath his despair. 'Maybe not. I have a suspicion without proof, but I know people, I can ask.'
Andy's hope dims.
'You're going to ask?' he demands. 'Roger no offence but there's been an entire fucking trial and a jury and teams of lawyers working this; what the fuck good is asking around going to do?!'
Roger smiles at him, small and secretive, and just a little like how a shark might look at a fish swimming unsuspectingly toward it. 'It is amazing,' he says, 'what people will tell you when you are Roger Federer.'
Despite himself, despite everything, Andy feels his mouth tug helplessly toward a smile – because Roger's most endearing and fucking irritating qualities are both his belief in his own omnipotency. More irritating than endearing when he's proved right time and again, but right now that's what Andy's counting on; he'll happily take the hit to his pride if Roger comes through.
Still - 'Remind me never to piss you off,' he says dryly.
'I only use my superpowers for good. And also to get what I want,' Roger adds with not quite enough of a twinkle to make it entirely a joke. 'But you can keep me happy by getting off this bench and playing this exhibition you talk me into before many angry Scottish people come looking.'
Andy's smile vanishes and he feels himself tense up all over again with a sick feeling uncoiling in his stomach. 'Roger no, I can't-'
‘Nonsense.’ Roger cuts him off flat. He’s looking at Andy steadily with the same impenetrable front he directs across the net, the one that offers not a flicker of mercy; faced with it, Andy knows bitterly that he’ll be walking out to face the crowd in a minute regardless of his feelings in the matter. ‘You want to help Novak, you go out there. Make the noise, give the interviews. This is the price of me helping understand?’
He means that too, ruthlessly unmoved by Andy’s glare because Roger Federer may smile and play dodge ball across the locker room and save tiny African children in his spare time, but he’s never done anything he didn’t want to do.
Nice is easy, Novak used to remark, when the entire world ask how high when he say jump.
‘You’d really let him rot in there,’ Andy says, bitterness twisting it, ‘let him sit there when you think he’s innocent just because I don’t hit a few tennis balls?’
Roger gets up, collecting his racquet from where it’s leaning against the wall and turning toward the door out to the arena, nothing like tension in the relaxed set of his shoulders, his utter certainty. ‘Yes,’ he says over his shoulder, easy as if Andy isn’t trying to set him on fire with the force of his glare, ‘because I have no doubt that Novak would do the same to me. You however, you are a better person and I like you, and you like Novak. If you want him back, I am willing to put the effort in. If you actually want him back of course?’
‘I-what- of course I do!’ Andy feels his voice rise uncertainly and snarls a curse in Roger’s direction under his breath. ‘Why would you even ask that?’
Turning, one hand on the door handle, Roger raises an eyebrow.
‘How many more matches would you win in the next few years if he was not around?’ he asks. It’s like the betrayed jolt of being bitten by something you thought was friendly, a sudden knife in Andy’s chest that leaves him winded. ‘You both were unfriendly this year, the first few months before it happen. The whole locker room see how unhappy you are with each other. How sure are you that he did not do it?’
‘I-’ Struggling for equilibrium, Andy swallows.
It’s true that him and Novak weren’t exactly all smiles and hugs at the start of the year, what with Andy’s inability to win a tennis match and Novak’s weird distance, the careful way he moved around the locker room as trying to hide that his joints ached – but he’d snapped at Andy when he caught Novak throwing up behind the practice courts in Monte Carlo and asked if he was okay. Trying to hide that there was something wrong, the whole beginning of the season and if Andy hadn’t seen the panic in Novak’s eyes when he told Andy to leave him the fuck alone, the panic that said Novak himself didn’t know what was wrong, maybe he’d second-guess himself now.
As it is he gets up instead, phone tossed toward his bag as he stalks past Roger’s watchful look to snatch up his own racquet. His knuckles are white around the handle with the effort of keeping his voice level when he says,
‘I know he didn’t do it, one hundred percent, but if you don’t think the fact that he’ll spend five years locked up on a lie isn’t a fucking outrage then don’t bother helping.’ He meets Roger’s gaze with a bitter smile, humourless and all teeth. ‘I don’t need a half-arsed attempt to make yourself feel like at least you tried. I’ll do it myself.’
The sudden easing of tension in Roger’s face is unexpected, something warm that’s not quite a smile flickering. ‘Good,’ he says decisively, and hitches a shoulder when Andy gives him a what the fuck look. ‘This will not be easy, Andy. I wanted to check that you were sure.’
Only years of practice at controlling his temper in rooms full of journalists keeps Andy from punching him square in his smugness. Instead he breathes around the urge, feeling it quiver through him barely leashed and he takes small comfort in knowing that he’s going to get to hit tennis balls at Roger’s face for the next few hours.
‘Fine,’ he says, curt, ‘you’ve made your point. Can we get the fuck on with it? The sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can start asking around.’
He makes to push past Roger to the door but Roger’s hand catching his shoulder pulls him up short, grip digging in unexpectedly to keep him still. When he twists to demand an explanation he’s met by Roger’s achingly familiar look, the one he’s seen in too many across-the-net hugs to count; Concerned and warm, the pity in it never failing to sting.
‘Andy,’ he says, suddenly hesitant, his eyes dark and searching Andy’s face for- something. Hope, maybe. ‘You do understand that this will not be quick yes? You believe and I am willing to be persuaded but the rest of the world move slow and bureaucracy even slower. This will not be a phone call and Novak walking out tomorrow morning.’
The kindness splinters like glass beneath Andy’s skin. Cuts his voice ragged as he says, ‘What are you trying to say Roger?’
‘If I work on this, then you have a side to keep up.’ Roger raises his eyebrows and when Andy only looks blank, sighs. ‘You must talk to Novak, Andy. This is to be a marathon and he is the one running. He is locked in an entire jail of people who do not believe him, and who must be angry. We’re going to need something left at the end to be rescued.’
Gritting his teeth, Andy pulls free.
‘I know you don’t like him but he’s not a delicate fucking flower,’ he snaps. ‘Novak will be fine.’ Yanking open the door, he stalks down the corridor into the rising swell of crowd noise and the roar of it breaking around him is almost enough to drown out Roger’s soft voice at his heels.
‘Are you sure?’
Andy Murray Alive and Kicking
Anne Willis, The Times, Nov 9th 2017
In the ongoing tumult that is the tennis world this week, there were strange scenes in Glasgow last night as Andy Murray took to the SSE Hydro Arena for the second annual charity exhibition, Andy Murray Live. In return for Murray taking part in the Match For Africa exhibition series initiated by current tennis number one Roger Federer, the Swiss’ announcement that he’d be returning the favour with an inaugral visit to Scotland to join Murray’s show this year resulted in a rush for tickets that led to resale prices soaring and reports of at least one fan being mugged on the way to the show.
Even then it’s doubtful that any of the 13,000-strong crowd could have anticipated the match they were about to witness. Under the lights and following an unscheduled warm-up match between the older of the Murray brothers, Jamie, and Tim Henman, Federer (acknowledged by many as the greatest tennis player of all time) was annihilated by Murray in a blazing three set spectacular.
While the unwritten rules of tennis exhibitions recommend that the players should have an entertaining knockabout, with the winner often pre-decided to be the host, last night it appeared that Murray had missed the memo. He came out swinging and after initially appearing taken aback, Federer retaliated in kind. The result was a display of ferocious skill between two of the world’s best tennis players, throughout which the crowd alternated awed silence and wild, if bewildered, appreciation.
Whether the show was pre-planned or the result of some backstage spat between Murray and the Swiss – unlikely, given that they have always seemed on cordial terms – the result was a rare vision of tennis greatness. Both players acknowledged it as such with a long embrace at the net after the final point went Murray’s way, to a arena-wide standing ovation. While they seemed to have a brief discussion across the net, Murray was uncharacteristically short when pressed to elaborate in the on-court interview:
‘He was just telling me well done on the win,’ he said. ‘These exhibitions are just for fun, does it matter?’
However, he was more vocal when chatting to journalists following the event. Asked about the shock conviction of Novak Djokovic, former number one tennis player and Murray’s close friend since childhood, Murray held nothing back.
‘I think it’s an outrage. I’ve always believed in Novak’s innocence and the witch hunt he’s suffered at the hands of the tennis authorities, and now this ridiculous decision, is damaging to the entire sport.’ When asked to confirm whether he still believed in Djokovic’s innocence despite being found guilty, Murray was blunt: ‘Of course I still believe he’s innocent. I hope this all gets sorted out quickly, for both Novak’s sake and the sport as a whole.’
Condemning Murray’s comments this morning, Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, said: ‘It’s a shame that one of our leading players felt the need to cast doubt on the outcome of this case. While I appreciate the long time relationship between the players on tour, illegal match-fixing causes serious harm to the integrity of tennis and sport as a whole, and it is imperative that the authorities act on evidence where it is uncovered. As far as we are concerned, the conviction in this case was based on a thorough, year-long investigation and the ATP have complete confidence in the verdict, and that justice was done.’.