Corruption fears haunt tennis

Last Updated: Feb 10, 2011, 11:38 AM IST

Melbourne: Persistent corruption fears are troubling tennis after several players were contacted by investigators and as rumours fly of unusual results and suspicious betting patterns.

Rising Ukrainian star Alexandr Dolgopolov confirmed he was among the players to receive a letter from the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an anti-corruption squad headed by an ex-Scotland Yard detective.

Dolgopolov, speaking during last month`s Australian Open in Melbourne, said some Russian players had also been contacted. There is no suggestion Dolgopolov or the other players are suspected of wrongdoing.

"I wasn`t really surprised because I knew some guys, you know, like Russian guys, they got those letters," Dolgopolov said.

The content of the letters has not been disclosed.

Corruption allegations -- which come after a spot-fixing scandal left three Pakistan cricketers banned and facing criminal charges -- tend to focus on surprising results, often in obscure tournaments, which attract large bets.

In 2008, Russia`s Nikolay Davydenko was cleared after a long-running probe into a match he forfeited in Poland which drew big wagers, prompting betting exchange Betfair to void all bets.

Last July, Britain`s Daily Mail said officials were investigating a win by 370th-ranked Richard Bloomfield in Rhode Island, which attracted one million pounds (USD 1.6 million) in bets.

An Italian website said investigators were also looking into irregular betting patterns surrounding a match in St. Petersburg in October.

Serbia`s 52nd-ranked Janko Tipsarevic, another player to be contacted by the TIU, has denied any wrongdoing in his defeat to world number 98 Horacio Zeballos in October.

"I said to the Tennis Integrity Unit that I have no problem, they can send me a letter every week if they want," he told Italy`s journalists.

"All it needed was a phone call to my bank, to my phone company and I gave them everything. Easy, just took seven days, I sent them my account, the telephone list, everything they wanted, what`s the problem?"

A well-placed source in the bookmaking industry said tennis officials were investigating about 10 suspicious cases from recent months, indicating the possible scale of the problem.

PTI