British tennis player involved in Wimbledon match caught up in scandal

Richard Bloomfield. Photo / Getty Images.
Richard Bloomfield. Photo / Getty Images.

A match featuring a British player is one of four played at Wimbledon to come under scrutiny by the tennis authorities over alleged fixing.

Richard Bloomfield, then a 23-year-old wildcard ranked No 259 in the world, beat Argentina's Carlos Berlocq, then world No 89, in straight sets in a first-round match in 2006.

Around £340,000 (NZ$740,000) was wagered on Berlocq to lose on the internet platform Betfair alone, prompting a Grand Slam committee probe that took no further action. The Tennis Integrity Unit, which was later put in place to investigate suspect games, did not come into operation until 2008.

There is no suggestion that Bloomfield did anything wrong on that occasion, or in a second scrutinised game he was involved in at a tournament in America in 2010.

That win for Bloomfield in Newport, Rhode Island, was against Belgian Christophe Rochus and attracted more than £1 million in bets on his upset victory.

Betfair confirmed they had reported that to the TIU, who made no further comment.

The Daily Mail is not aware of any evidence implicating Berlocq or Rochus in wrongdoing.

At the time of Bloomfield's Wimbledon win - his only main-draw victory at the All England Club during his career - he said he was unaware of anything unusual around the match, calling the betting revelations "unbelievable".

He said: "I didn't know anything about it. It is indescribable. My mates called about it and I didn't believe them. I don't do any kind of betting and I don't even know how to play poker or slot machines.

"I have never seen Berlocq in my life and all I know about him are some results. He is a clay-court player but I couldn't tell you anything else about the guy. I just went out and played my game - I can't believe I am talking about something like this. As far I'm concerned I beat him fair and square. I don't want the win to be overshadowed."

Bloomfield, now 32, said nobody from the tennis authorities spoke to him about any concerns on the day of the match. It is not clear if they followed up later. He was unavailable for comment when contacted by the Daily Mail at the school where he now works as a tennis coach.

After he beat Rochus in America, he said he was as perplexed about the betting as he had been at Wimbledon. "I'm a guy who has never had a bet on anything in my life," he said.

Two more of the Wimbledon matches featured Italian players - Filippo Volandri and Potito Starace - who have both come under scrutiny on multiple occasions for involvement in matches with irregular betting.

Volandri, 34, was cited more than any other player in a dossier of matches with strange betting patterns, compiled for the ATP in 2008.

Starace, also 34, was banned for life last year by the Italian Tennis Federation for match-fixing offences, although the ban was lifted on appeal.

Volandri's three-set defeat by Wayne Arthurs at Wimbledon in 2005 sparked a probe after heavy betting on the Australian. The same year Starace lost in three sets in SW19 to Belgium's Gilles Elseneer, who later alleged he had been offered US$100,000 (NZ$153,000 at today's rates) to lose that match. It is unclear if the investigations reached a conclusion but none has been made public.

The fourth Wimbledon match confirmed by the Daily Mail as being probed by the authorities took place in 2009 between Austria's Jurgen Melzer, who has been ranked as high as No 8 in the world, and an American, Wayne Odesnik, who peaked at No 77.

The Daily Mail can reveal an investigation by the TIU took anti-corruption officers to several countries, seeking explanations for extraordinary betting patterns on Odesnik's straight-sets defeat.

Six-figure sums were wagered on the specific 3-0 scoreline hours before the match started, hundreds of times the levels expected. Secret TIU documents seen by the Daily Mail show Odesnik turned whistleblower for the authorities after that incident and after being caught with performance-enhancing drugs. He was recently banned for 15 years for the latest serious drugs offence of his career. The Daily Mail is not aware of any evidence to implicate Melzer in any wrongdoing.

A variety of other matches at the All England Club over the years have been central to strange betting movements but were not subject to formal probes.

"Irregular" betting can be triggered for reasons as mundane as injury news about a player or a particular individual gambler having one big punt for a perfectly legitimate reason.

An All England Club spokesman told the Daily Mail: "As part of the tennis family, Wimbledon underlined the sport's zero-tolerance approach to all aspects of corruption.

"Tennis remains committed to meeting the challenge all sports face from corrupt betting practices. We have stringent procedures and sanctions in place to deal with any suspected corruption and have shown we will act decisively when our integrity rules are broken."

British coach Dave Sammel revealed on Thursday two of his players on the fringes of the main tour had been approached to throw matches. Sammel says Richard Gabb, ranked No 324, and Scott Clayton, No 372, were at a minor Futures tournament in Turkey two years ago when asked to fix a match by Russian player Andrey Kumantsov, who was later banned for life after the Britons, and others, reported his activity. - Daily Mail

TENNIS MATCH-FIXING ALLEGATIONS - THE KEY NUMBERS

16 - core group of players who are claimed to have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.

26,000 - matches that are alleged to have been examined in a report handed to tennis' governing bodies that was not acted upon.

£35,000 (NZ$76,000) - the figure said to be offered per fix to players by corrupt gamblers.

70 - players' names reported to appear on nine lists of suspected fixers flagged up to tennis authorities.

- Daily Mail

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