This is how you fix a tennis match

With reports yesterday that dozens of top world tennis players are suspected to have been involved in match fixing, the Herald looks at how players could fix.

A joint BBC-BuzzFeed report yesterday claimed 16 players, including "winners of grand slam titles", had been "repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit" over the past decade.

Here are the ways a player could fix:

Tanking

Or match throwing...deliberately losing, something supposedly occurring anyway when players were injured or wanted to save themselves for future tournaments. It is claimed that on some occasions there was a carve up between opponents - the loser would get the prize money while the winner's spoils were the valuable ranking points. Crooked players have much more to gain than this thanks to gambling. Richard Ings, a former of rules and competition at the Association of Tennis Professionals, said a handful of players told him they were offered around US $50,000 to throw first round matches at ATP Tournaments.

The Set-Up

A player wins the first set and starts strongly in the second to ensure his opponent is at longer odds to win. Fraudulent bettors in on the fix pile their money on the losing player, who stages a winning recovery thanks to his opponent deliberately underperforming.

Spot fixing

Just like cricket, bets can be placed on individual moments or stanzas in games. This can involve agreeing to reach certain scores, or fixing the outcome of sets or games.

Throwing in the towel

Prime alleged example: the infamous 2007 Polish Open match between defending champion Nikolay Davydenko and Vassallo Arguello. The odds on Davydenko, the world number four, got longer even though Arguello was ranked at 87 and Davydenko won the first set. Davydenko retired because of a foot injury when down 2-6, 6-3, 2-1. But online exchange Betfair noticed abnormal betting during the match, immediately notified the ATP, and voided millions in bets. Davydenko has always insisted on his innocence, and the ATP cleared anyone and everyone of wrongdoing while admitting it was unable to get phone records from Davydenko's wife and brother. Leaked files reportedly reveal Arguello exchanged 82 text messages with a suspected Italian gambling syndicate. Bookmakers generally refuse to pay out on incomplete matches, which means this is probably not a popular method.

Fix and forget

Odds change during games so in this fix, the players deliberately share the first two sets allowing bettors to make their wagers on the best odds. The third set is played out legitimately, and the winning gamblers make more money than they otherwise would have.
Inside and out.

Austrian Daniel Koellerer was initially banned for life and fined by the Tennis Integrity Unit in 2011 for match fixing violations in the previous two years. He denied the allegations and a court overturned the fine. He told the BBC he was offered money to lose a match, and double money to lose in straight sets.

"As a tennis player, you cannot believe how easy it is to play the ball next to the line, but not in the field, out," he said.

"No one from 10,000 people watching the match will realise if this match is fixed or not."

The umpire's call

Ex-tennis rules boss Ings was also an ATP umpire and says the sport is a sitter for fraud.

"If you were to invent a sport that was tailor-made for match-fixing, the sport that you would invent would be called tennis."

He said the betting market, not the tennis court, was the place to spot problems.
"It doesn't take much effort on a player to throw a match without the opponent or the officials or the fans or even the media being aware."

- NZ Herald

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