Not all the bettors were fair
in taking a Wimbledon ’dog

Jul 4, 2006 4:08 AM

I had to head east on a racing -assignment last week, and when I arrived at Newark I picked up a copy of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s biggest newspaper.

The front page was all agog with the testosterone shown by the state’s governor, Jon Corzine, who was threatening to shut down the government over a legislative dispute on taxes.

Later that day, he did just that, including closing down not only the Meadowlands racetrack, but — and this really takes bravery — Atlantic City’s casinos, both coming up on a big Fourth of July weekend. (Horse racing and the casinos were later given a holiday weekend reprieve.)

That understandably commanded space, a lot of it, but after reading about Corzine’s courage, or folly or petulance or however you choose to characterize his actions, I turned to the sports pages for lighter fare.

The big story there of course, was the World Cup, the U.S. Women’s Open, and Wimbledon.

I read those, and then turned to a column called Wimbledon Days. Halfway down, buried under a subhead reading Storylines, was a startling development.

It was the Associated Press’s -account of a match between Carlos Berlocq and Richard Bloomfield.

Alex Delanian, the Star-Ledger writer who assembled the column from tidbits on tennis at Wimbledon, introduced the item this way: "Ever heard of Carlos Berlocq or Richard Bloomfield? No? Then you probably don’t have a bookie."

The piece went on to say that up to $546,000 had been bet on Berlocq to lose the match. He did, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, to Bloomfield, who is ranked 170 places below him and got into the draw as a wild card.

The administrator of the Grand Slams, which is what all of this British fancy stuff is called, was asked about the strange betting pattern on the match. He told AP, "In the Grand Slams, we have an agreement with the betting agencies to give us confidential information if unusual betting patterns take place. It may be nothing or it may be something."

You judge whether it is nothing or something.

Berlocq is primarily a clay courts player, not a top performer on grass like Wimbledon. After Bloomfield had trounced him soundly, he told reporters that he had suffered a foot injury before last month’s French Open, where Ivan Ljubicic beat him in straight sets. Apparently someone beside Belocq knew that, because Bloomfield, from his low ranking position, went from 1-2 to win to 1-10 odds with Betfair, the big British betting exchange where you can bet on someone to lose as well as win.

Betfair said it notified both the International Tennis Foundation and the English Lawn Tennis -Association of the unusual betting pattern. Betfair’s spokesman, Tony Calvin, told AP, "We contacted the ITF Grand Slam Committee and the LTA to make them aware of betting patterns before the match. We have information--sharing agreements with both of these bodies. "

Babcock of the Grand Slams would not confirm this, saying merely, "We will not comment on information we receive unless there is something to report. Maybe just somebody was betting for a good reason."

Safe assumption, Mr. Babcock. We guess they were.

Bloomfield, 23, had never won a match on the ATP tour until this one. His explanation of the victory was that he plays a serve-and-volley game and Berlocq plays the baselines mostly, and he said he felt he had a good chance to win

So did those who bet more than half a million dollars on him.

Asked if he bet on himself, which is against Wimbledon and Grand Slam rules, Bloomfield told reporters, "Definitely not, No. I’m not that kind of person. I’d actually hardly had a bet in my life. Don’t know how to play poker. I’m not into that stuff. To be honest, other than the fact I played in a match against Berlocq, I don’t think it has anything to do with me. I didn’t see any indication during the match of anything unusual."

A round later, Bloomfield was gone. Tommy Hass of Germany, whose foot apparently was okay, sent Bloomfield packing in straight sets.

I don’t know what the Grand Slam authorities will do about this, but I know what we would do in horse racing.

We’d order a urine test”¦ white pants and English manners or no.