Australian Open overshadowed by match-fixing claims


A joint investigation undertaken by two media companies has alleged tennis authorities failed to act upon repeated warnings regarding claims of match-fixing involving a number of players on the professional circuit.

BuzzFeed News and the BBC have claimed a US Open champion and doubles winners at Wimbledon were among a group of 16 players who had repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly-suspicious bets have been placed against them.

Russian and Italian gambling syndicates are said to have made vast profits by placing highly-suspicious bets on scores of matches, including a number at Wimbledon and the French Open.

The reports claimed nine lists containing the names of more than 70 players suspected of match-fixing have been brought to the attention of world tennis authorities in the last ten years.

A core group of 16 players is said to be at the heart of the betting scandal, with eight due to feature at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

The investigation's findings are based upon a cache of leaked documents, as well as information arising from a 2008 probe into match-fixing.

That probe included analysis of betting activity on 26,000 matches, along with interviews carried out with gambling and match-fixing experts, tennis officials, and players.

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) was set up in the wake of the 2008 investigation and to date has disciplined 13 low-ranking male players for match-fixing and banned five for life.

Mark Phillips, a betting investigator involved in the 2008 probe, accused the authorities of failing to act on the information at their disposal.

"They could have got rid of a network of players that would have almost completely cleared the sport up," he told the BBC.

"We gave them everything tied up with a nice pink bow on top and they took no action at all."

TIU head Nigel Willerton has previously insisted that tennis takes "a zero-tolerance approach to all aspects of betting-related corruption" and that "all credible information received by the TIU is analysed, assessed and investigated by highly experienced former law-enforcement investigators".

ATP president Chris Kermode meanwhile was quoted as saying by BuzzFeed: "I can assure you that tennis is not treating this lightly. The idea that tennis is not acting appropriately is ludicrous."