Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Duo grilled about match-fixing

MELBOURNE, Australia — Players involved in a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open said Monday that they were interviewed by the Tennis Integrity Unit after the New York Times reported there had been suspicious betting patterns.

The gambling website Pinnacle Sports told the newspaper it had received an unusual spike in bets for Lukasz Kubot and Andrea Hlavackova to beat David Marrero and Lara Arruabarrena, causing it to suspend betting before the teams played Sunday.

All players identified in the newspaper report rejected any possibility of fixing in the match, which was won by Kubot and Hlavackova 6-0, 6-3.

Kubot said Monday that the TIU had asked him and Hlavackova questions about the match without offering any more details. He added, though, that he didn't notice anything unusual on the court, saying "we give 100 percent of that match" and he believed his opponents "were trying 100 percent."

"It's not very comfortable to think that we didn't win the match on our terms," Hlavackova said. "We played our best (Sunday), we did very well and we won. So it's a bit not comfortable to be questioned if someone else was not playing 100 percent or something."

Marrero and Arruabarrena rejected the allegations in an interview with the New York Times, with Marrero citing a knee injury for his team's poor play. They were not available for comment Monday.

The sport has been under intense scrutiny in the wake of reports published by BBC and BuzzFeed News last week saying tennis authorities have ignored widespread evidence of match-fixing involving 16 players who had been ranked in the top 50 over the past decade. The media outlets didn't name any players but said half would be competing at the Australian Open.

Tennis authorities immediately rejected the assertion they had suppressed evidence of match-fixing or failed to thoroughly investigate suspected cases.

The International Tennis Federation declined to comment, and the TIU does not address individual cases.

The latest report came as a former top-200 player from Australia, Nick Lindahl, pleaded guilty in a Sydney court to a match-fixing charge after prosecutors say he informed two people he would intentionally lose a match at a lower-tier tournament in 2013 so they could bet against him.

Tennis Australia declined to comment on the suspicious betting reported by the New York Times in Sunday's mixed doubles match, reiterating in a statement that the TIU's policy is "to review and investigate every allegation of corruption in tennis."

Pinnacle told the newspaper it began seeing "a large amount of money" being wagered on Kubot and Hlavackova to win the match by a "small number of people" after it opened betting Thursday, prompting it to suspend wagers and notify the police in Victoria state, where Melbourne is located.

Another betting agency, William Hill, which is a sponsor of this year's Australian Open, said Monday it saw no suspicious betting activity on the match, receiving less than five bets, each at stakes below $5 per bet. London-based Betfair told the Associated Press it also kept betting open on the match.

Kubot said that though he was open to answering the TIU's questions, he didn't believe players should be identified publicly without proof of wrongdoing.

"Of course, I think everybody should play fair and everyone is responsible for themselves. But as I said, this is nothing proved, then nothing should be said, that's it," Kubot said. "You work hard every day, as every one of us, and this is just putting us, let's say, on the black list, but without any (proof)."

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