<
>

Tennis officials investigate irregular betting on match

LONDON -- Officials on Friday were investigating suspicious betting
patterns on a match involving top-seeded Nikolay Davydenko of
Russia, who retired with an injury against a low-ranked opponent at
an ATP tournament in Poland.

In an unprecedented move, British online gambling company
Betfair voided all bets Friday placed on Thursday's second-round
match at the Prokom Open in Sopot between the defending champion
and No. 4-ranked Davydenko and No. 87-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina.

Betfair said it received about $7 million in bets on the match --
10 times the usual amount -- and most of the money was on Arguello
to win, even after Davydenko won the first set 6-2.

"You try to leave it to the players to play the game the right
way," said Andy Roddick, ranked fifth in the world. "I think we
expect that of them. If something's found that's shady, I, for one,
will be extremely [ticked] off.

"Obviously you want to wait and see it play out, but it's too
bad that it only takes one idiot to ruin things and create a bad
story."

Arguello won the second set 6-3 and was leading 2-1 in the third
when the Russian retired. Davydenko said he aggravated a left foot
injury in the second set. He received medical attention from a
tournament trainer before deciding to quit.

"I don't think that he [Davydenko] has something to do with
this," Arguello said Friday. "I was playing against him, but he
was playing also with an injury, and that's all that I know about
the match, and that's also what I felt in the match. I felt nothing
else."

Betfair, which has had an agreement with the ATP since 2003 to
share information on any irregular betting activity, said it was
concerned with the volume of wagers coming in on Arguello from the
start.

"We think the market quite clearly wasn't fair," Betfair
managing director Mark Davies said. "The prices seemed very odd.
As a result, in the interest of fairness and integrity and in
consultation with the ATP, we have decided to void the market and
return all stakes to [bettors]."

It's the first time the company has taken such a step in any
sport. Davies said Betfair would turn over its betting records for
the ATP to investigate.

"The ATP takes issues surrounding gambling extremely
seriously," the men's tour said in a statement. "We are committed
to ensuring our sport remains corruption free and have strict rules
in place governing this area.

"In addition we have memorandums of understanding with U.K. and
European betting companies that ensures information pertaining to
any ATP Tour match that may look suspicious, based upon gambling
patterns, is shared with us immediately."

ATP officials said Friday that Davydenko had left Poland.

"Normally I try to fight to the end but it was very painful and
I may have done even more damage by trying to finish the match,"
Davydenko said Thursday after the match. "Since the beginning of
Monday I've had a problem with my left toes. Today that became a
problem with my foot."

Since losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon to Marcos Baghdatis, Davydenko lost three straight first-round matches -- to
Gael Monfils at the Swiss Open, Florent Serra at the Dutch Open and
Gilles Simon at the Croatia Open -- before beating Andrei Pavel,
6-3, 6-4 in the opening round in Poland.

Arguello lost 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Friday in the quarterfinals to
another Argentine player, Jose Acasuso.

"I saw Davydenko playing very well the first set, and I saw
also that he had problems with his feet, and that was true, he was
not inventing that, so it's difficult to suspect him," Arguello
told The Associated Press by telephone from his hotel room in
Sopot.

Fellow Russian Marat Safin, playing this week in Washington,
declined to speculate about the Davydenko situation.

"I don't really care," Safin said. "Whatever people do, and
whatever they want to do, I don't care. I just want to play my
matches and enjoy my time. I've enough problems myself."

At Wimbledon in 2006, Betfair reported irregular patterns
surrounding a first-round match between British wild card
Richard Bloomfield and Carlos Berlocq of Argentina.

Berlocq, who was ranked 170 places higher than Bloomfield, lost
6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Most of the bets placed were on Berlocq to lose.

However, no wrongdoing was detected.

Allegations of match-fixing in tennis have cropped up in the
past.

In 2003, bookmakers reportedly suspended betting six hours
before Russian player Yevgeny Kafelnikov's match in Lyon, France,
against Fernando Vicente after a big wager was place on the
Spaniard. Vicente, who had been winless for several months, won in
straight sets. There was no suggestion either player was involved
in wrongdoing, and no investigation was made by the ATP.

Several Russian tennis players were photographed a few years ago
with Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a suspected mobster from the former
Soviet republic of Uzbekistan who was accused of fixing the pairs
and ice dancing events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Photographs of Tokhtakhounov with Kafelnikov, Safin and Andrei Medvedev were taken off Medvedev's Web site in 2002 after the man's
arrest. Tokhtakhounov spent nearly a year in a Venice, Italy,
prison but escaped extradition to the United States in 2003 on the
Olympic rigging charges.