Free Press Journal

Tennis officials interview players over mixed doubles match


Serena Williams of the US (TOP) plays a return during her women's singles match against Italy's Camila Giorgi on day one of the 2016 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2016. AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN-- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE

Melbourne: Players involved in a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open said today they were interviewed by the Tennis Integrity Unit after a newspaper reported it had attracted suspicious betting patterns. According to the New York Times report, the gambling website Pinnacle Sports said it had received an unusual spike in bets for Lukasz Kubot and Andrea Hlavackova to beat David Marrero and Lara Arruabarrena, causing it to suspend betting before the teams played on Sunday.

All players identified in the newspaper report rejected any possibility of fixing in the match, which was won by Kubot and Hlavackova 6-0 6-3. Kubot said today that the TIU had asked him and Hlavackova questions about the match, without offering any more details. He added, though, that he didn’t notice anything unusual on the court, saying “we give 100 percent of that match” and he believed his opponents “were trying 100 percent.”

Marrero and Arruabarrena rejected the allegations in an interview with The New York Times, with Marrero citing a knee injury for his team’s poor play. They were not available for comment today.

The sport has been under intense scrutiny in the wake of reports published by BBC and BuzzFeed News last Monday saying tennis authorities have ignored widespread evidence of match-fixing involving 16 players who had been ranked in the top 50 over the past decade. The media outlets didn’t name any players, but said half of them would be competing at the Australian Open.

Tennis authorities immediately rejected the assertion they had suppressed evidence of match-fixing or failed to thoroughly investigate suspected cases. Tennis Australia declined to comment on the suspicious betting reported by The New York Times in Sunday’s mixed doubles match, reiterating in a statement that the TIU’s policy is “to review and investigate every allegation of corruption in tennis.”

According to the newspaper, Pinnacle said it began seeing “a large amount of money” being wagered on Kubot and Hlavackova to win the match by a “small number of people” after it opened betting on Thursday, prompting it to suspend wagers and notify the police in Victoria state, where Melbourne is located.

Another betting agency, William Hill, which is a sponsor of this year’s Australian Open, however, said Monday it saw no suspicious betting activity on the match, receiving less than five bets, each at stakes below $5 per bet. London-based Betfair also kept betting open on the match, including allowing wagers during play, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Kubot said that while he was open to answering the TIU’s questions, he didn’t believe players should be identified publicly without proof of wrongdoing. “Of course, I think everybody should play fair and everyone is responsible for themselves. But as I said, this is nothing proved, then nothing should be said, that’s it,” Kubot said. “You work hard every day, as every one of us, and this is just putting us, let’s say, on the black list, but without any (proof).”