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Tennis world hit by fresh wave of match-fixing scandals as US Open, Wimbledon matches doubted

900   //    07 Oct 2016, 13:29 IST
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01:  Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland returns a shot to Varvara Lepchenko of the United States during her second round Women's Singles match on Day Four of the 2016 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Swiss ace Timea Bacsinszky's first-round

The Tennis Integrity Unit or TIU, which investigates cheating in the sport, has revealed that there have been 96 ‘suspicious’ matches played on the tennis circuit worldwide this year; it has emerged that of these, two were played at the Grand Slam level – at Wimbledon and the US Open this year. 

The match labelled ‘suspicious’ at the US Open was a first-round contest between Swiss Timea Bacsinszky and Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia, one the Swiss won 6-1, 6-1; the TIU is said to have received a number of alerts about the match, which saw suspicious betting patterns around it. These patterns can be reported by individuals, betting organizations or even regulators, who alert the TIU when these patterns are noticed.

Read more: Evidence of match fixing at Wimbledon uncovered

In a statement, the TIU said that betting patterns alone were not necessarily indicative of fixing, and could also be based on well-informed betting, playing conditions and player fitness among other factors.

Earlier this year, however, the TIU revealed that “at least 15 of the top-50 ranked players” had been under continuous investigation for throwing matches they would otherwise likely have won.

The statement also said there were “Grand Slam winners” in that list, but did not reveal any names.

Although a number of players have seen bans for other reasons, such as the use of banned substances, the most recent betting-related bans in the sport saw Italian Davis Cup team members Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace banned for fixing in 2015, but the Italian Tennis Federation overturned those life bans only a few months later.

The game, which for a significant time had the reputation of a ‘clean’ sport, has recently been hit with a slew of fixing allegations, and less than a month after the earliest TIU revelations of 2016 made headlines, two tennis officials saw life bans for fixing; an investigation also uncovered serious evidence of courtsiding, or pre-reporting scores to bookies from on-court before they were made available to the public.

Former player and current chairman of the ATP Chris Kermode had announced this January that the claims made by the TIU would be seriously looked into, and that the “...serious allegations.....(has) caused damage to the sport."

What do the match-fixing allegations mean for the sport of tennis?

Several senior players have called for a clampdown on match fixing, among them Roger Federer and Andy Murray, with talk surrounding a number of junior players, or those lower on the ATP circuit having thrown matches for money. These allegations have never been confirmed, but with a number of top-30 and top-40 names in that list, perhaps it is time to have a fresh look at matters in the sport, with alerts of fixing currently at unprecedented levels.

It is not known at this time which match at Wimbledon is under suspicion, or which players are involved.

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