Three matches from the recently-concluded Wimbledon and one from the French Open will be investigated by the Tennis Integrity Unit — the body which polices the sport for offences related to corruption.
While two of the matches at the year’s third Grand Slam were qualifiers, one was a main draw match which triggered unusual betting patterns, necessitating TIU to examine them closely.
"These will be assessed and reviewed in keeping with the TIU match alert policy below," the TIU said on its website. It must be noted that the TIU receiving an alert on the basis of bizarre betting patterns is not in itself evidence of match-fixing or corruption.
While the TIU did not reveal the specifics of which matches were being investigated or the names of the players involved in them, it revealed it had received 83 alerts in the first six months of 2017, according to BBC. The body also revealed that it had received 53 alerts since April itself, although the majority came from matches at the lower level Challenger, Futures and ITF Women's tours. However, by this stage last year, the integrity watchdog had received 121 alerts.
The current edition of Wimbledon was marred by as many as 12 early retirements — 10 in the men’s event and two in the women’s — which caused ire and raised questions over whether the injured players had only played in matches to collect the hefty first-round appearance fees. The Guardian, however, reported that the alerts were not linked to instances of players retiring early due to injury.
Ever since its inception, the TIU has suspended 31 players for offences related to match-fixing.
The TIU, responsible for enforcing the sport’s zero-tolerance policy on betting-related corruption and other integrity issues, is funded by the sport's seven major stakeholders — International Tennis Federation, ATP, WTA, Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open — but is an operationally independent organisation based in London. It was established in 2008 and can interview and obtain, with consent, suspects' phones, tablets, lap tops and financial records. Investigations are opened at any time, into any “covered” player. If found guilty, the TIU has the authority to slap offenders with lifetime bans and fines up to US$250,000.
All tennis players are required to complete an online Tennis Integrity Protection Program which explains grooming techniques and the process of reporting corrupt approaches, according to the TIU website.
In January last year, there were reports that the game's authorities had failed to deal with widespread match-fixing. The reports, first published by Buzzfeed and BBC, said an ATP inquiry in 2007 had found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily.
The investigation also revealed that the syndicates had made hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches, three of which were played at SW19. The TIU reportedly flagged 16 players in the top 50 due to suspicion that they may have thrown matches.
However, the reports claimed the players were allowed to compete regardless despite evidence of intentional wrongdoing.
Last year, Marco Cecchinato was barred for 18 months and fined 40,000 euros after being accused of fixing two of his matches. In 2015, Italian players Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali were banned from the sport for life for match-fixing.
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Updated Date: Jul 21, 2017 16:08:11 IST