Tennis Betting Alarm Bells in 0.155% of all Matches

Tennis Nicolay Davydenko match fixing scandal

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an organization created to investigate allegations of match fixing in Tennis and set-up after a bout of match-fixing allegations in 2007/2008 has reported a year-on-year rise in the number of suspicious betting alerts during the first three months of 2018.

During the first quarter of 2018, January to March inclusive, the TIU received a total of 38 match alerts through its confidential Memorandums of Understanding with gambling regulators and leading betting organisations.  Although an increase on last year, the figure is broadly in line with the same period over previous years:

  • 2017 – 30 alerts
  • 2016 – 48 alerts
  • 2015 – 32 alerts

In January, February and March 2018 a total of 24,489 matches were played across all tournaments and events, meaning the 38 alerts represented a ratio of 0.155 percent.

Of the alerts received this year, 23 were related to matches in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Men’s Futures competition, a further five for matches were related to the ITF Women’s events.

There were one alert apiece for matches in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour.  Six related to the ATP Men’s Challenger event and two for Hopman, Davis and Fed Cup tournaments. No Grand Slam matches have come under scrutiny.

Betting patterns do not mean corruption

The TIU does make it clear that: “Every alert is assessed and followed up as an indicator that something inappropriate may have happened.  It is important to appreciate that an alert on its own is not evidence of match-fixing.”

And they also add: “There are many reasons other than corrupt activity that can explain unusual betting patterns, such as incorrect odds-setting; well-informed betting; player fitness, fatigue and form; playing conditions and personal circumstances.”

We would add the lower the importance and stature of a competition and match the more difficult it is to place sizeable wagers which would make ‘corruption’ in the pursuit of meaningful financial gain all the more unlikely.

The landmark match

One of the highest profile investigations into tennis match-fixing was triggered by a 2007 game between World No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello ranked over 80 places below him.

Despite Davydenko winning the first set, 6-2 and leading in the second set of this game the underdog was trading as favourite on the Betfair Exchange and an unprecedented £3.5 million was eventually traded on the match.

In bizarre circumstances Davydenko eventually forfeited the match claiming he was suffering from both a toe and ankle injury.  But the match was so dubious Betfair took the unprecedented decision void all trades on the game.

Things have changed a great deal since but, nevertheless, last month the sports betting integrity organisation, ESSA, reported that tennis remained the main source of suspicious betting activity in 2017 recording a total of 160 cases across the sport during the year.  Football came in a distant second with 45 reports of suspicious games.


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