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Should John McEnroe Be Our Third Co-Author?

I am wondering if perhaps we should try to enlist John McEnroe to write with us in the future, although I’m sure we couldn’t afford his fee.

In this interesting (London) Telegraph article on the reported rise in fixed tennis matches, McEnroe nicely parses the incentives at play for top-ranked players versus lower-ranked players. While lower-ranked players may be willing to fix a match for money, McEnroe argues, a higher-ranked player doesn’t have the same incentives. And so, if indeed someone like the No. 4-ranked Russian player Nikolay Davydenko has been fixing matches, McEnroe worries that the incentive he’s facing is perhaps a threat from the Russian mafia:

“That would make more sense to me than top players throwing a match for money. Throwing a match for money would be stupid, as you would be risking losing what you’ve worked for your whole life. It seems crazy that players would take that risk for money. It would make more sense that they’ve been threatened in some way and that’s why they’re doing it.”

McEnroe indicated it would be very simple to corrupt the outcome of a tennis match. “The easiest situation for throwing matches would be in a one-on-one sport like tennis or boxing. You just need one person,” suggested McEnroe…

But some of the lesser players in men’s tennis could be tempted by bribe money, McEnroe said, and possibly would not need to be coerced by mafia threats.

“I think this issue has to be closely looked at, because it’s very conceivable that it’s happening. There are guys out there who are 100 in the world, 200 in the world, and they’re making ?50,000 a year. And if someone says that they’ll give you ?50,000, so your entire year’s money, I think there’s a strong possibility that they have taken the money, without a doubt,” McEnroe said…

McEnroe does not think that any of the leading players, such as Nikolay Davydenko, would be tempted to take a bung. The Russian world No. 4 is being investigated by the ATP after a defeat in Poland in August, as the match had attracted suspicious patterns on Betfair, the peer-to-peer betting exchange.

“With a high-ranked guy like Davydenko, he’s making so much money to begin with that he’d be risking so much by doing it, as if you get caught you should be banned for life,” McEnroe said. “But it’s pretty tough to prove that someone has thrown a match unless you’re tapping the guy’s phone or something.”

McEnroe’s reasoning bears some resemblance to the stories we told in Freakonomics about cheating sumo wrestlers (where collusion happens when a wrester is “on the bubble,” or desperate for one last win in a tournament) and cheating schoolteachers (who were usually among the worst teachers in the school — otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have had to cheat).

I know that McEnroe attended Stanford, though he stayed only one year before turning pro. Does anyone happen to know if he took any econ while he was there?