New fixing scandal erupts as Australian Open begins

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Melbourne, Jan 18 (IANS) An exhaustive investigation into tennis match fixing by two prominent media organisations has revealed evidence that 16 professional players have been caught up in the scandal.

The findings of the investigation, by BuzzFeed News and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), were revealed on the day 2016’s first Major, the Australian Open, began at Melbourne Park, reports Xinhua.

Of the 16 players under suspicion, eight will take to the court at the Australian Open over the next fortnight.

Authors of the report devised an algorithm to analyse gambling patterns on professional tennis matches over the past seven years. The investigation uncovered a bundle of leaked internal documents and analysis of betting on 26,000 tennis matches.

The secret files uncovering evidence of widespread match fixing, released by the BBC and Buzzfeed on Monday, found:

— A US Open champion and doubles winners at Wimbledon were among a core group of 16 players who had continually been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets were placed against them.

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— One top-50 ranked player competing in the Australian Open is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set of a match.

— Players were being targeted in hotel rooms at major tournaments and offered $50,000 or more for each fix by corrupt gamblers.

— Gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy have made hundreds of thousands of pounds placing highly suspicious bets on scores of matches, including at Wimbledon and the French Open.

— The names of over 70 players appear on nine leaked lists of suspected fixers who have been identified to world tennis authorities over the past decade without being sanctioned.

— Four players also showed highly unusual patterns which raised concerns as they had lost nearly all of the matches they were involved in where betting was largely one-sided. Given the initial odds, the chances that the players would perform so poorly were — the report said — less than one in 1,000.

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Despite repeated warnings that a group of players was reportedly involved in match fixing, tennis authorities have taken no action to stamp out the corrupt behaviour.

The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities, however, rejected any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason.

In response to the match fixing allegations, the four governing bodies of tennis — Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Grand Slam Board, International Tennis Federation (ITF)) who are partners in the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) — said on Monday there is a zero-tolerance approach to all aspects of corruption and that they are and will continue to be firmly committed to protecting the integrity of the sport.

Speaking on behalf of the partners, Chris Kermode, executive chairman of the ATP and Tennis Integrity Board member, said: “Tennis remains fully committed to meeting the challenge that all sports face from corrupt betting practices. We have stringent procedures and sanctions in place to deal with any suspected corruption and have shown we will act decisively when our integrity rules are broken.”

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“No player or official is immune from investigation, regardless of their status or position in the sport. Investigations follow where evidence leads” Kermode said.

“All professional players, support staff and officials are subject to the terms of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program which equips the TIU with substantial investigative powers. These include the right to interview any relevant person of interest and obtain their telephone, computer and bank records.”

Kermode added: “No player or official is ever cleared by the TIU of potential involvement in corruption. By its very nature, corruption is difficult to prove, so while the process can often be lengthy, the TIU will continue to pursue evidence where it believes it is warranted.”

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