Even at Wimbledon, Gambling Industry Must Monitor Match-Fixing

Game, set, match-fixing?

Gamblers probably won’t need to worry about it on Wimbledon’s Centre Court when top seed Iga Swiatek or defending champion Carlos Alcaraz step onto the English grass.

It might even be absent from Wimbledon qualifying, which begins Monday, June 24. During the first week, players outside the top 100 try to string together three wins for a ticket to the main draw.

Look past the 64 men and 64 women in qualifying to find the most likely pockets of corruption in tennis. Match-fixing and point-shaving are a reality for the sport.

Match-fixing at the Lowest Levels

Wimbledon casts a huge shadow as the calendar changes from June to July. But, players outside the top 150 can still find a tournament as they try to pay their bills during the fortnight.

  • On the Challenger Circuit, men play for $82,000 prize purses in places like Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, or Bosrov, Romania.
  • Women compete for a share of $115,000 purses at WTA 125 events starting July 8. They play in Bastad, Sweden, or Contrexeville, France.

The worst tennis betting scandals involve players outside of the top 500. Athletes fly coach, share hotel rooms, and travel to outposts like Monastir, Tunisia, or Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic at the ITF level.

US sportsbooks carry odds for entry-level ITF matches.

A Regulated Market Makes Match-fixing Easier to Find

Betting operators send bet alerts to the International Tennis Integrity Agency whenever unusual betting patterns surface. In the first quarter of 2024, the ITIA said it received 25 match alerts through its “confidential Memoranda of Understanding with the regulated betting industry.”

  • ATP World Tour — 1
  • Challengers — 4
  • Men’s ITF — 14
  • Women’s ITF — 6

“Every alert reported to the ITIA is recorded, assessed, and followed up as an indicator that something inappropriate may have happened. It is important to note that an alert on its own is not evidence of match-fixing,” the ITIA said in its quarterly report.

Informed bettors can get ahead of the analysts who set odds at sportsbooks. Playing conditions and a player’s fitness or form can also factor into increased betting interest.

A Case Study from November

Even before online sports betting became a legal option in the US, international bettors could wager on a player like Alberto Rojas Maldonado of Mexico. He cracked the top 1,000 in 2015. Or, Christopher Diaz Figueroa of Guatemala, who reached a career-high ranking of 326 in 2011.

Neither journeyman drew headlines, but, like the NBA’s Jontay Porter and MLB’s Tucupita Marcano, they received lifetime bans for corrupting the integrity of their sport.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) issued the lifetime bans just seven months ago, on Nov. 16, 2023.

The ITIA Findings

Anti-corruption hearing officer Richard McLaren tied Maldonado and Figueroa to a Belgian betting syndicate orchestrated by Grigor Sargsyan.

The ITIA believes Maldonado “played a pivotal role in the corruption of other players.” He was cited for 92 breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP).

Figueroa was already sanctioned for one TACP violation when tennis investigators found 13 more infractions.

The ITIA thinks three more players from Mexico took the court and altered their results for the Belgian syndicate:

  • The ITIA banned José Antonio Rodriguez Rodriguez from tennis until 2035 for eight integrity violations, including match-fixing.
  • Countryman Antonio Ruiz Rosales received a ban until 2033 for seven violations, including match-fixing.
  • Orlando Alcántara Rangel received a two-year suspension for a pair of integrity breaches.

All of the players are well past their playing days. The bans mean they cannot coach pro tennis players or attend professional tennis events.

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About the Author
Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell

Lead Writer
Russ Mitchell joined Gaming Today as a lead writer in February 2023 after joining Catena Media in 2021 as a managing editor for the PlayIA and PlayVA brands. He covers sports betting industry news market developments, the college sports betting industry, and the four major North American pro sports leagues. With 25+ years of journalism experience to Gaming Today. He is a five-time winner of the Iowa’s prestigious Harrison “Skip” Weber Investigative Reporting award, a two-time National Newspaper Association award winner and a 50-time Iowa Newspaper Association award winner.

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