It was great to see the Wimbledon tennis championship being played this year following the cancellation of the event in 2020. It was the 134th edition of the tournament and Novak Djokovic successfully defended the Gentlemen’s Singles title, with Ashleigh Barty defeating Karolína Plíšková in the Ladies Singles final.
It was an excellent two weeks of tennis but did not come without controversy. Two matches at the 2021 Wimbledon championship were reported to the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) due to the possibility of irregular betting patterns. One of the matches in question was an early-round singles match, during which a five-figure sum was bet on the exact result at the end of the second set.
The German newspaper Die Welt reported that it was a German player involved in the singles match but the unnamed player was not being investigated. The other match in question was a men’s doubles contest but there has not being any further information regarding the outcome of the investigation at the time of writing.
Not the first time in the spotlight…
However, this is not the first time tennis has been under the spotlight as these developments come on the back of the lifetime ban of Franco Feitt by the ITIA. The Argentine player admitted to multiple counts of match-fixing between 2014 and 2018 and in addition to the ban, he received a fine of $25,000. There were multiple breaches of three different clauses in the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program rules, including five breaches of section D.1.b, three breaches of section D.1.e, and one breach of section D.2.a.i.
Between April and June 2021, the ITIA received 11 match alerts via the confidential Memoranda of Understanding with the regulated betting industry. Two of the alerts were based on matches from ATP 250-level tournaments, with the remaining 9 coming from Challenger events.
It is concerning that in the space of two months, there were 11 alerts of potential betting irregularities in professional tennis and therefore, it would come as no surprise if the match-fixing allegations at Wimbledon turn out to be true. Any player is innocent until proved guilty but these statistics suggest that if there are 11 alerts across a two-month period, there is a good chance of having at least one during a two-week tennis tournament.
34 people arrested
In addition to Feitt, as a result of the ITIA report for the second quarter of 2021, Barbora Palcatova was banned for three years and fined $5,000, Roman Khassanov was banned for 10 years and fined $100,000, and Carlos Andrés Sepúlveda Navarro was banned for three years and fined $10,000. Each of the fines includes a suspended payment, which may be lifted but a total of four players have been convicted during the second quarter of 2021.
A report following an investigation from the BBC and Buzzfeed in 2018 saw 34 people arrested, including several professional players, some of which had been in the world’s top 50. Those involved gained over $500,000.
Thankfully, there is nothing to suggest this is a wide-ranging problem in professional tennis and gambling on the outcome of tennis remains the same for punters around the world.