Sports Outside the Beltway

Officials probe irregular betting in Polish tennis tournament

There is a controversy brewing involving a match Nikolay Davydenko quit last Thursday.

WARSAW, Poland – Nikolay Davydenko “has nothing whatsoever to do” with the suspicious betting patterns on his second-round match at the Prokom Open, the player’s agent said.

ATP Tour officials are investigating the fourth-ranked Davydenko’s loss Thursday to the 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina in which the Russian retired because of injury in the deciding set.

In an unprecedented move Friday, British online gambling company Betfair voided all bets placed on the match, saying the market wasn’t fair.

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.

Eckhard Oehms, Davydenko’s agent, denied the 26-year-old player had any connection to the betting.

“We’ve got nothing whatsoever to do with that,” Oehms told The Associated Press by telephone Saturday. “Neither Nikolay nor his coach nor me nor anybody out of our entourage has been involved in this.

Tennis officials are already reacting.

Underlining the importance of protecting tennis’ “appeal and integrity,” the head of the men’s professional tour promised Saturday to use “all means available” for an investigation into suspicious betting on a match involving No. 4-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.

Etienne de Villiers, the ATP’s executive chairman, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that “independent, external resources” would be used to look into why a British online gambling company received about $7 million in wagers on the match, 10 times the usual amount.


“It is important that we not jump to conclusions, especially when players’ reputations could be unfairly tainted,” de Villiers said. “What we must do is carry out a comprehensive and immediate investigation, and that is what we are doing.”

Villiers promises are vague but to preserve his sport’s reputaion, he has to take this news seriously. Fans and sponsorship money could be lost if a player was implicated in fixing matches.

Tennis hasn’t been without recent controveries including gambling.

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.

The same article did note irregular betting at the 2006 Wimbledon Championships.

It is too early to draw conclusions, but I’ll make one small point. If a match was fixed, it would be pretty darn foolish to place bets in the manner that happened while Davydenko and Arguello were playing, in addition to the large amount being placed through betfair. It would seem wiser to bet large amounts spread between multiple betting outlets. That to my untrained eye(I watch little pro tennis, rarely gamble and don’t work in law enforcement or as investigator), would look too damning for a criminal if there was cheating. Like those old television detective dramas, if the case against a suspect looks too good, maybe its time to look elsewhere.

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