Another reason I don't bet on tennis.... ; )
Tennis players throwing matchesBy Gavin Versi, Clive White
October 13, 2003
International tennis players are deliberately throwing matches for financial
gain. It is believed that bets of up to $200,000 have been placed by
players, through their coaches and other intermediaries, with internet
betting exchanges, resulting in massive payouts.
The Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body of men's tennis,
is so determined to stamp out the growing menace that it recently signed a
memorandum of understanding with the British-based company Betfair, which
give the ATP access to its clients' records.
The English Jockey Club is the only other sporting body that has signed such
The ATP was first made aware of the concerns of betting more than three
months ago. Most of the players under suspicion are outside the top 100.
But last week the ATP took the unprecedented step of warning a former world
top 10-ranked player against not trying after it was brought to their
attention that there had been heavy, irregular betting on one of his
matches, in which he lost in straight sets.
There is no doubt in the minds of some people as to the punishment for any
player found guilty of throwing a match. "They should be jailed, no doubt
about it. They're ruining the game," said John Lloyd, a television analyst
and former British Davis Cup player.
The ATP has privately admitted that several players were under scrutiny. The
responsibility for investigating the problem lies with Richard Ings, the
ATP's executive vice-president of rules and competition.
He declined to comment on whether any players were under investigation for
betting-related activities, but said: "The penalty for any player found
guilty of match-fixing is $US100,000 plus whatever money he made from the
bet and a three-year suspension, which is tantamount to a life ban.
"When you consider that the punishment for ***-related offences is a
two-year suspension, you will understand that we would view this as a most
serious violation of ATP rules."
A betting scandal was the last thing the ATP needed following the recent
*** fiasco when it was forced to rescind its two-year suspension of Czech
player Bohdan Ulihrach for taking nandrolone after it became clear that ATP
trainers had been dispensing tablets that may have contained the illegal
Ulihrach is now considering legal action against the ATP for loss of
The sport has long been aware of the lesser problem of "tanking", whereby
players deliberately lose matches, more often than not for more innocent
reasons, like the need to move on to another tournament where they are
contracted to play.
Two weeks ago, Georgian Irakli Labadze was fined $110,000 for not trying.
But deliberately losing matches for personal financial gain - not something
Labadze has been accused of - is a disturbing new phenomenon within the
"If they realise they can make good money from this, it will increase as
more players cotton on," said one leading fixed-odds bookmaker. "You've got
to remember that it has only really become a problem recently with the
explosion in the internet business, but it can only grow."
As well as traditional fixed-odds staking with bookmakers via the telephone
and in shops, a popular method of betting on tennis is with the increasingly
popular internet betting exchanges. More than $250,000 is regularly traded
on matches each day at Betfair alone.
Compared with bookmakers, it offers more favourable odds because of smaller
profit margins, and is not restrictive in terms of stakes, as bookmakers
might be with a successful punter.
Betting exchanges, or peer-to-peer odds exchanges, as they are sometimes
known, operate by matching bets between private individuals. Unlike
traditional bookmaker betting, they are also transparent, which means one
can see exactly how much is being bet on any given match.
It was through this transparency that the problem came to light. It became
evident that for no particular reason some matches were attracting a far
greater betting turnover than they should have.
At a clutch of tournaments across the globe in the past few months, the
betting on certain first-round matches has been more than twice as much as
the rest of the first-round matches put together.
Even Wimbledon has not been spared the embarrassment of dodgy results.
Betting on one match at this year's championship, involving a high-profile
player, was halted when bookmakers became aware that the coach of one of the
players was placing bets.
One ATP trainer even offered his services to one bookmaker, promising to
alert them to news of injured players, which would be in contravention of
Several of the betting plunges have been against players carrying injury,
some of whom subsequently retired during their match. In an effort to
counteract this, many bookmakers have changed their rules over when a bet
becomes active, from "first ball served" to "injury void".
Betting on matches is frequently suspended because of "irregular betting
patterns". Recently the betting on a match between the Russian Yevgeny
Kafelnikov and Fernando Vicente, of Spain, at the Lyon Grand Prix was
suspended when, according to the Racing Post newspaper, a worldwide plunge
was landed on the Spaniard.
Vicente, who won 6-2, 6-3, had not won a match since June. His odds toppled
from 5-1 to odds-on favourite on one of the exchanges, while fixed-odds
bookmakers suspended betting six hours before the match was due to start.
But there is no suggestion that either player was involved.
The betting coups invariably take place in the first round of events when
they are less likely to arouse suspicion, although one bookmaker, Skybet,
said last week that it would no longer be taking bets on the first round at
The option of deliberately losing in the first round becomes particularly
attractive when a player has little chance of progressing in a tournament,
for whatever reasons.
Even when a player is an underdog, there is money to be made in making sure
he loses. A recent match involving one such no-hoper traded $135,000 on
Betfair. As one fixed-odds bookmaker commented: "He could still have made
5000 (pounds), which is more than his first-round loser's cheque.
Meanwhile, Betfair refuses to accept that there is any match-fixing going on
HOW THE STORY UNFOLDED
June 6, 2003:The Association of Tennis Professionals is alerted to unusual
betting activity in a crop of matches. The association immediately confirms
it will look into this.
July 10: A director from a leading bookmaker tells The Sunday Telegraph that
a former professional now coaching on the ATP Tour has bet on matches
involving his present charge using his personal account in central Europe.
August 18: ATP representative Richard Ings requests a supervisor's report
into the Feliciano Lopez v Jarkko Nieminen match in Long Island, New York,
after being alerted to suspicious betting patterns by The Sunday Telegraph.
Lopez retires through injury when 1-0 down in the second set.
October 1: Internet odds exchange Betfair announces that it has signed a
memorandum of understanding with the ATP.
October 7: Bookmakers suspend betting on the match between Yevgeny
Kafelnikov and Fernando Vicente in Lyon, France, six hours before it is due
to start after receiving bets from "marked accounts". About $217,000 is
wagered with Betfair, with Vicente's odds coming in from 6-1 to 1-4.