There are certain sports that immediately come to mind when you think about match fixing and general debauchery: tennis is usually not one of those sports… unless you go back to the whole Andre Agassi saga.
With that said, the governing body of world tennis have been keeping an eye on 16 players over the top 10 years. These players, who have ranked in the top 50, have been repeatedly flagged due to suspicion of throwing matches. These players have been able to continue competing despite numerous transgressions, and what’s worse is the fact that some of these players have gone on to win Grand Slam titles. The Tennis Integrity Unit say they have a zero-tolerance approach in regards to match fixing, but if that’s the case then they’re doing a very poor job.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) kicked off an investigation in 2007 that looked into a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. It was thought that some suspicious betting activity was going on, but the two were found not to have violated any rules. Nonetheless, this investigation opened up Pandora’s Box and opened the ATP’s eyes to a world of web gambling.
It turns out that betting syndicates in Russia and Italy made hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches that may have been fixed. What’s more, three of those matches were Wimbledon fixtures. A confidential report penned in 2008 says that 28 players involved in suspected fixed matches were supposed to be investigated, but the findings were never followed up. This led to the ATP introducing an anti-corruption code in 2009.
The documents we have obtained show the enquiry found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily making hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on games investigators thought to be fixed. Three of these games were at Wimbledon.
“As a result no new investigations into any of the players who were mentioned in the 2008 report were opened,” a TIU spokesman said.
The years that followed resulted in repeated alerts sent to the TIU calling out multiple players – none of whom received disciplinary action. Betting analyst Mark Phillips, an investigatory in the 2007 inquiry, said “There was a core of about 10 players who we believed were the most common perpetrators that were at the root of the problem.”
The European Sports Security Association, who monitor betting, alerted the TIU to over 50 shady matches back in 2015. They even said that tennis attracts more suspicious gambling than any other sport, which I find hard to believe. The names of the players involved will not be released to the public unless documents get leaked, and this is is being done because it’s not possible to identify which players have actually been involved without accessing their phone, bank and computer records. The Australian Open, which begins today, has eight players taking part in the tournament who have been repeatedly flagged to the TIU over the past decade.
If there’s money involved, you can bet your ass that something fishy is going on somewhere.