Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wagers draw attention, but that's all
ESPN.com news services
WIMBLEDON, England -- Wagering on a Wimbledon match soared after a TV commentator pointed out that one of the players was injured.
The British bookmaker, Betfair, alerted tennis corruption investigators about unusual betting patterns for the first-round match Tuesday between 109th-ranked Wayne Odesnik of the United States and 30th-ranked Jurgen Melzer of Austria but did not suspect any wrongdoing, spokesman Mark Davies said on Wednesday.
Davies said Betfair received more than six times as many wagers as it would normally receive for such a match. Melzer's odds "shortened significantly," Davies said, after a TV announcer noted shortly before the match that Odesnik had a thigh injury. Melzer won 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
Betfair received about $980,000 in wagers on the match, Davies said. The average for a first-round match at Wimbledon is less than $163,000.
"It's being reported as potential corruption, but I don't see it that way at all," Davies told The Associated Press. "I doubt that there was any wrongdoing."
Still, Betfair reported the heavy betting to the International Tennis Federation's integrity unit.
"Because of the transparency ... we pass that info on to the Tennis Integrity Unit," Davies said. "Then they can make a judgment. But having heard the commentary on the match, I don't suspect that this is going to turn out to be any kind of corruption story."
The All England Club referred all questions about the betting to the ITF, which refused to comment. The ITF's Tennis Integrity Unit never comments on an ongoing investigation.
"The Integrity Unit is obliged to look at it, but if I were in [unit head] Jeff Rees' shoes, I wouldn't look at it very long," Davies told ESPN.
Tennis increased the attention it pays to allegations of match-fixing and players betting on the sport since Betfair voided all wagers on a 2007 match between fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko and 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello after suspicious betting patterns emerged. The players were cleared by an ATP investigation.
"This is nothing like the Davydenko match," Davies told ESPN.
After Tuesday's betting received widespread coverage in British media, match-fixing was again a hot topic at Wimbledon.
"It has no place in tennis, those kinds of things," Roger Federer said when asked about possible corruption. "But it's hard to control. But I'm sure the ATP and the ITF, we're trying our best to catch those guys, if there are any out there. I think we should have massive bans on those who get caught so they get really scared of doing it."
Information from The Associated Press and Willie Weinbaum of the ESPN Enterprise Unit was used in this report.