Suspicions Aired about Potential Match-Fixing at Wimbledon

Hand holding tennis ball and racquet on clay court background

Some suspicious betting activity has been flagged at this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament that could point toward match-fixing. It was noticed in one of the men’s doubles matches in the opening round.

What is the suspicious activity?

There have been a number of high-profile incidents in the tennis world in recent times.

Maria Sharapova returned last year to the game after being forced to miss 15 months due to her use of a banned substance called meldonium. This was detected at the 2016 Australian Open and her initial ban was set to last two years, but it was reduced upon appeal.

There was a more recent controversy when one of the all-time best tennis players, Serena Williams, refused to submit to a drugs test at her home.

Now, a number of news outlets in the United States have been reporting about a suspicious match in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon event and its potential link to match-fixing.

The worldwide sportsbook Pinnacle Sports has said that this first-round matchup was flagged as being suspicious by their team as a result of irregular patterns of betting. A number of bets were made using accounts that had a history of suspicious betting activity.

The New York Times revealed that the match in question was the first-round clash between Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero of Argentina, who lost to Leonard Mayer and Joao Sousa of Portugal.

It was confirmed by the integrity manager for Pinnacle Sports, Sam Gomersall while speaking to ABC television. After this suspicious match-fixing alert was triggered, Pinnacle sent details of the incident to Wimbledon officials and made appropriate changes to their markets.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is believed to have directed this matter towards its Tennis Integrity Unit.

Previous tennis-related controversies

In recent times, there have been numerous allegations regarding match-fixing in the lower rungs of professional tennis.

A report released in April, which cost almost £20m ($28m) to conduct, showcased serious issues in the pro game. An Independent Review Panel (IRO) interviewed over 100 players and also surveyed over 3,200 tennis professionals over the course of two years.

A startling outcome of the survey was that 464 of the 3,200 professionals said they possessed first-hand knowledge of match-fixing. The head of this IRP, Adam Lewis QC, he commented that the lower rungs of professional tennis events are “a fertile breeding ground for betting breaches”.

The report accounted for events that took place between 2009 and 2017, with findings that 83% of the matches suspected of having been fixed were on male events. There is supposedly a specific season for this match-fixing, which lasted from October until the year’s end. It was alleged that between two and three matches a day are fixed at International Tennis Federation (ITF) events during that period.

Tennis is an extremely competitive sport, with only a few hundred men and women being able to make a profitable living from playing the game professionally. With almost 15,000 professionals globally, players can be enticed to take part in match-fixing to help them with their extensive playing costs. These players face significant expenses for coaching, travel, accommodation, physiotherapists, entry fees, etc.

They may not see a legitimate alternative to continuing their pursuit of a professional tennis career other than getting involved in match-fixing so they can pay their bills.