The world of professional tennis was rocked by a major gambling scandal Monday after a leaked report named dozens of players suspected of rigging matches in exchange for cash.
The contents of the report prepared by investigators working for the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which dated from 2008, was first reported on by the BBC and Buzzfeed. Among other notable claims, it alleged that three possible fixed matches took place at Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament in tennis.
The report also alleges that 16 players ranked in the Top 50 over the past 10 years, including some who have won Grand Slam doubles titles, have been repeatedly reported to tennis authorities for taking part in suspicious matches, with no action being taken by the ATP.
At a press conference Monday, ATP President Chris Kermode denied that officials had sought to cover up suspected improprieties.
“I think it’s always disappointing when stories come out like this just before a big event,” Kermode said. “But we are so confident there’s nothing in the sport that has been suppressed.”
The BBC reported that eight of the 16 suspected repeat offenders were scheduled to take part in the Australian Open, the first of tennis’ four majors, which got underway Monday in Melbourne.
The names of the suspected players have not been revealed by the BBC and Buzzfeed, who said it was impossible to fully determine whether the players had taken part in match-fixing without access to phone, computer or bank records.
In all, investigators named 28 players as having taken part in suspect matches. However, one of the investigators, Mark Phillips, told the BBC, “There was a core of about 10 players that we believed were the most common perpetrators, that were at the root of the problem really.”
The investigators also discovered that members of three gambling syndicates, based in Russia, Sicily and northern Italy, had bet large amounts of money on dozens of matches.
“You’d have one player [who] would win a set and then they would go a break of serve up,” Phillips said, “and then almost as soon as that happened there would just be a flood of money [bet on] the other player who would then miraculously win eight games in a row.”
Phillips said that when the investigative team presented their findings to the ATP’s newly formed Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), they received little response.
“It soon became clear they didn’t really want our advice on that or anything else,” Phillips said. ATP President Kermode told the BBC that the evidence presented by the investigators was too weak to act on.