Tennis’s anti-corruption authorities are looking into a spate of suspicious matches that have taken place at full ATP Tour events in Russia over the past two weeks. Highly suspicious betting patterns have been recorded in early round encounters involving male players at both last week’s $1million Kremlin Cup in Moscow and this week’s $663,000 St Petersburg Open.
The Tennis Integrity Unit, who work on behalf of the sport’s governing bodies, have refused to comment, but are sure to have had ‘red flags’ raised to them by the outcry among tennis punters, particularly on internet sites. Some British bookmakers have been so sceptical about matches in Russia they have reduced the number of markets offered to customers, despite the continuing popularity of betting on tennis. One match that drew particular attention happened in Moscow and involved a well-established Eastern European player losing to a lower-ranked opponent from South America. It attracted more than £1.5m of trades on Betfair alone and saw the odds mysteriously move in the opposite direction to what was actually happening in the match. By the time the underdog, who had originally opened at 5-1, went a set down he was bizarrely trading as favourite and when the match went into a third and deciding set he was 1-4 on to win the contest, which he duly did. The match in question was played between Nickolay Davydenko and Pueblo Cuevas and reulted in an upset win for the #70 ranked player 7-6, 7-6. Davydenko was the subject of a similar investigation in 2004. Alarms were raised about several other outcomes.
There were about a handful in St Petersburg earlier this week, and it was enough to put several major British bookmakers on alert. Graham Sharpe, of William Hill, said in reference to St Petersburg: ‘Normally we would put up between 20 and 35 markets for each individual match, such as set
betting, but instead we have been offering just one, a straightforward win or loss. We’ve seen some strange peaks and troughs in the market in relation to what has been happening at the time.’