More than 40 professional tennis matches were flagged for potential match-fixing by international bookmakers in just a three-month period last year — an average of more than three times a week.
- At least 20 players involved reported to world tennis authorities
- Blacklist contains more than 350 names
- Two players are low-ranked Australians
- Third review for the sport in 11 years
The fixtures took place at tournaments in countries including Colombia, Morocco, Russia and Germany between September and November 2015, eight years after tennis first vowed to fight the scourge of corruption.
At least 20 of the players involved in those matches have been reported to world tennis authorities on previous occasions — a dozen of them were first flagged by integrity investigators as far back as 2008.
Several of the players also appear on a separate blacklist obtained as part of a Four Corners investigation into match-fixing and the underworld figures who control bookmaking across Asia.
The blacklist is maintained by a European bookmaker of tennis professionals not trusted to always play to win.
The list contains more than 350 names, including at least 10 who played at this year’s Australian Open.
Two of the players on the list are low-ranked Australians, but the majority hail from developing economies in South America, Asia and Eastern Europe, where integrity measures in the sport are at their weakest. Four Corners has provided the list to tennis authorities.
The revelations come five days after the heads of each major tennis governing body — the Association of Tennis Professionals, the International Tennis Federation, the Grand Slam Board and the Women’s Tennis Association — announced a review of the sports integrity regime by a London barrister, Adam Lewis QC.
The investigation was prompted by news reports out of London that linked top-ranked players to corruption in the sport, prompting a global furore and overshadowing the first grand slam on the tennis calendar, the Australian Open.
The review will be the third for the sport in 11 years.
Four Corners has interviewed those who conducted the previous two reviews, all of whom say the sports’ governing bodies are facing a growing problem with matches fixed every single week somewhere across the world.
Tennis buried report warning of ‘deliberate underperformance’
The first major warning was given to tennis by the man who would go on to become Australia’s anti-doping chief, Richard Ings.
As an ATP executive, he produced a scathing report in November 2005 that was meant to have been made public.
The Ings report warned tennis it was “an alarming wake-up call for the sport of men’s professional tennis and its governing bodies”.
“Deliberate underperformance by players and ensuing gambling and alleged corruption that results from such deliberate underperformance, appear to pervade all levels of the men’s professional game today,” the report stated.
Mr Ings recommended the establishment of a uniform anti-corruption code and an integrity unit to more fully investigate 37 matches that were highly suspicious.
But tennis buried the Ings report and did not act on either recommendation until a major scandal years two later.
The controversy centred on a match in Poland in 2007 involving then world’s fourth-best player, Nikolay Davydenko, after Britain’s betting exchange, Betfair, voided all bets on the match.
Although there was ultimately insufficient evidence to make a finding against the Russian, the team investigating that match also discovered damaging evidence about a far wider corruption problem.
This time the investigators identified another 44 matches that required urgent investigation and potential sanction against several key players.
Instead, tennis authorities set up a minimal integrity regime and decided not to go after the players involved, citing a new player code that would not be applied retrospectively.
‘There is still a huge question mark over integrity’
Mark Phillips, a betting analyst from Global Sports Integrity, was one of the investigators involved in the 2007/8 probe.
One of the players embroiled in a feared match-fixing controversy at the Australian Open, David Marrero, has appeared on a secret blacklist of professional tennis players who have played in matches bookmakers deemed to be suspicious.
He told Four Corners he believed that had tennis followed up with their investigation it would have been able to root out the core people corrupting other players.
“We actually did a presentation, showed various parts of the investigation that we had done and then physically handed over data files and actual ring binders of evidence that we had collected,” he said.
“We were pretty experienced at investigating these types of matters and we believed the evidence to be very strong.”
One of the heads of the review, Ben Gunn, said tennis at the time was at a “cross roads”.
“I think it’s disappointing eight years later, having had two reviews eight years later, that it appears there is still a huge question mark over the integrity of some tennis games,” he said.
Bad Sport, a Four Corners investigation, can be seen at 8:30pm on ABC TV.
Tennis match-fixing scandal: How it unfolded
Updated Wed at 2:44pm
Tennis has ordered an investigation into its anti-corruption unit after it was left reeling by reports of match-fixing.
Here is how the story rapidly unfolded from when it first broke on January 18 to the announcement of the independent review panel on January 27.
Investigation reportedly uncovers evidence of match-fixing by core group of 16 players
January 18, 2016
BuzzFeed News and the BBC reveal details of a probe which found 16 players had lost games when suspicious bets were placed against them.
A US Open champion and doubles winners at Wimbledon were among the core group, while one top-50 ranked player competing in the Australian Open is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set;
Players were reportedly targeted in hotel rooms and offered $73,100 or more per fix.
The report looked at analysis of betting on 26,000 tennis matches and contained evidence of suspected match-fixing by gambling syndicates based in Russia and Italy uncovered as a result of an investigation in 2008, but over which no action had been taken.
ATP ‘absolutely rejects’ claims evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed
January 18, 2016
The president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) says the governing body “absolutely rejects” that evidence of match-fixing in the sport has been suppressed or overlooked.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated,” said Chris Kermode at a press conference at Melbourne Park.
Tennis’s big names react to the allegations
January 20, 2016
With the allegations emerging as 2016’s first major got underway, high-profile players were immediately put on the spot by the media. Aussie young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis was one of the first to speak, admitting he had been approached by “randoms” on social media to fix matches.
Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic fronted the press, dismissing a report in an international newspaper that he “wanted to lose” a match in 2007 and saying he felt terrible when he has been asked to fix a match in 2006, while retiring Australian great Lleyton Hewitt also went on the offensive after a blog linked him to the list of 16 names.
What it is to say?
Anybody can create a story about any match.
That’s my point. There hasn’t been too many matches where top players lost in last decade or so in early rounds. You can pick any match that you like that the top player lost and just create a story out of it.
I think it’s not supported by any kind of proof, any evidence, any facts. It’s just speculation. So I don’t think there is a story about it.
This is now the main story in tennis, in [the] sports world, there’s going to be a lot of allegations.
If there is corruption in any sport, you know, you want to hear about it.
As a player you just want to be made aware of everything that’s going on. I think we deserve to know everything that’s sort of out there.
Some of it will be true, some of it might not be true. But I’m always very curious with that stuff across really all sports, as well. I think sports could in general be much, much more transparent.
Roger Federer: “Names”
I would love to hear names.
Then at least it’s concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which slam?
It’s super serious and it’s super important to maintain the integrity of our sport.
So how high up does it go? The higher it goes, the more surprised I would be.
I think it’s a joke to deal with it. Obviously, there’s no possible way. I know my name’s now been thrown into it.
I don’t think anyone here would think that I’ve done anything (like) corruption or match-fixing. It’s just absurd.
For anyone that tries to go any further with it, then good luck. Take me on with it.
Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce.
Online bookmakers suspend betting on a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open
January 24, 2016
Betting agency Pinnacle Sports received large bets from a small number of people on Sunday’s doubles match between Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova and Poland’s Lukasz Kubot and Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero.
The agency said it was unusual for such large bets to be placed on minor matches. It was later revealed at least 19 other bookmakers including Ladbrokes also cancelled their betting markets on the match, according to historical betting data available online.
Hlavackova and Kubot won the match 6-0, 6-3 in 49 minutes, with the New York times reporting on Monday that the unusual betting patterns on the match had led Pinnacle Sports to suspend markets 13 hours before the scheduled start.
Spanish doubles player Marrero appears on blacklist of players who bookmakers deem suspicious
January 25, 2016
A secret bookmakers’ blacklist of tennis players is handed over to authorities, with ABC’s Four Corners revealing Marrero’s name is featured in the document.
The list is maintained by one of Europe’s biggest bookmakers.
The development comes after the president of the International Tennis Federation, David Haggerty, told Four Corners: “Players at all levels are vulnerable to corruption.”
Tennis announces independent review into the effectiveness of tennis’s anti-corruption program
January 27, 2016
Adam Lewis QC is appointed to lead an independent review panel to report on the appropriateness and effectiveness of the Tennis Anit-Corruption Program, aimed at safeguarding the integrity of the game.
The chairmen and chief executives of tennis’s governing bodies, the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board, commit to fund and implement all actions recommended by the panel.