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First round Australian Open encounter under suspicion for match-fixing

Unusual betting patterns raise match-fixing doubts in Andrea Hlavackova/Lukasz Kubot's 6-0, 6-3 win over Lara Arruabarrena/David Marrero.

Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero during their Australian Open match against Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot

Allegations of widespread match-fixing started coming in from all quarters and shook the realm of tennis a day before the beginning of the Australian Open. BBC and BuzzFeed News went into a joint investigation of the matter and published reports claiming that even the Grand Slam venues are not free of corruption.

On Sunday, a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open was suspected of having been fixed. Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero were up against Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot in a first round encounter and a sports-gambling website cancelled all its action for the day due to a highly one-sided betting on the match.

The website in question goes by the name of Pinnacle Sports, and Marco Blume, who happens to be an official there told the New York Times, “We saw a small number of people placing a large amount of money. In context, these matches are rather small. That means that any aggressive betting behavior is very easy to detect on our side.”

Hlavackova and Kubot emerged the winners with a 6-0, 6-3 reading. The first set of the match lasted only 20 minutes. Arruabarrena and Marrero have, however, denied all charges of match-fixing that have been labelled against them.

So went the report in the Times, First-round mixed doubles matches typically generate little gambling action, but more than $25,000 had been wagered on another website, the betting exchange Betfair, a few hours before the [Arruabarrena-Marrero/Hlavackova-Kubot] match was scheduled to start. By comparison, three other mixed doubles matches scheduled for similar times on Sunday had generated less than $2,000 combined.”

Post-match, Marrero tried to explain that his team’s poor performance was owing to a knee injury and it so happens that sometimes insiders get to learn about such injuries and accordingly place their wagers. To confirm match-fixing one needs more compelling evidence other than just unusual betting patterns.

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) was created a long time ago in order to investigate when charges of corruption came and also to keep a check on match-fixing events. BBC and BuzzFeed News both claim that little has been done by TIU in that direction. When asked by ESPN the TIU spokesman abstained from commenting.

Marco Blume from Pinnacle Sports tried to explain to the Times that too much money was being wagered for Hlavackova-Kubot after they had set the betting line for the mixed doubles match in question. Eventually the company had to move their line to attract betting for Arruabarrena-Marrero, they reduced the minimum bet, but to no avail. At which point Pinnacle had to shut down all gambling on the match.

32nd is the rank held by Marrero among men in doubles. Arruabarrena is placed 33rd among women. Hlavackova ranks 20th among women and 28th is the rank held by Kubot among men.

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