Match-fixing investigation opened at French Open

The French Open, which is usually held in May, was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic [Charles Platiau/Reuters)
The French Open, which is usually held in May, was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic

Authorities in France have opened a police investigation into alleged match-fixing in a women’s tennis match at the French Open. The Paris prosecutors’ office said on Tuesday the probe into “fraud in an organised group” and “active and passive corruption” was related to a first-round doubles match between Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Mari, and Yana Sizikova and Madison Brengle from Russia and the United States, respectively.

When asked about the case, the French Open organisers, referred all questions to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), which oversees corruption investigations in the sport, TIU said it was aware of the investigation but declined to comment. The investigation, which was opened on October 1, is being handled by the French police’s Central Service of Races and Games (SSCJ).

German newspaper Die Welt and French sport daily L’Equipe said there were suspicious betting patterns in the match in question, played on September 30 on Court 10. Die Welt cited unnamed insiders claiming several hundred thousand euros were bet on the game, and that the fifth game in the second set was a focus of the betting, without saying specifically how much of the total betting was on that game, according to the newspapers’ reports, large sums were allegedly placed from several countries on the Romanians to win that fifth game across several operators in Paris.

Match-fixing at the highest professional level is rare in tennis, especially at the Grand Slam tournaments, the TIU was set up in 2008 to tackle the threat of corruption in the game and has the power to issue life bans for serious offences. Alerts flagged up to the TIU increased in the first quarter of 2020, but these cases rarely involve the ATP or WTA Tour events or Grand Slams, most TIU convictions concern players plying their trade in the lowest rungs of professional tennis.

The long shutdown in global sport due to the coronavirus pandemic meant players were unable to earn money, the TIU said it had received 38 match alerts between January and March this year, compared with 21 in the same period in 2019. In its most high-profile case, the TIU in 2018 suspended Argentine tennis player Nicolas Kicker for six years, three years of it suspended and fined him $25,000 for match-fixing and other offences. The player had been ranked 78th in the world less than a year before his suspension.

The French Open, also called Roland Garros, is usually held in May, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

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