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Signs of Possible Match-Fixing in Wimbledon Men’s Doubles

The New York Times logoThe New York Times 5 days ago By BEN ROTHENBERG
Fernando Verdasco standing in front of a crowd: David Marrero, left, and Fernando Verdasco after winning the doubles final at the Rio Open in February. They lost in the first round at Wimbledon last week. © Leo Correa/Associated Press David Marrero, left, and Fernando Verdasco after winning the doubles final at the Rio Open in February. They lost in the first round at Wimbledon last week. WIMBLEDON, England — For the second time at a tennis major, a doubles match involving the Spanish player David Marrero has been flagged for suspicious betting behavior, a possible sign of match-fixing.

A men’s doubles match at Wimbledon last week — Marrero and Fernando Verdasco’s loss to João Sousa and Leonardo Mayer — was reported to anti-corruption investigators after a bookmaker observed suspicious betting.

Pinnacle Sports observed “a series of bets from accounts with a history of wagering on suspicious matches” in the hour before the match in question began. It was first reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Sam Gomersall, sports integrity manager for Pinnacle, said the late shift in odds which these wagers created was a “clear indication” of suspicious activity.

The ABC report did not name the players in question, but Pinnacle confirmed to The New York Times that the suspicions were raised by Marrero’s doubles match. Pinnacle also said that this was the lone match to be flagged for suspicious activity at either Wimbledon or last month’s French Open.

Spain's Fernando Verdasco (L) and David Marrero (R) hold the trophy as they celebrate after their ATP World Tour Rio Open final doubles tennis match win against Austria's Alexander Peya and Croatia's Nikola Mektic at the Jockey Club in Rio de Janeiro on February 24, 2018 © CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images) Spain's Fernando Verdasco (L) and David Marrero (R) hold the trophy as they celebrate after their ATP World Tour Rio Open final doubles tennis match win against Austria's Alexander Peya and Croatia's Nikola Mektic at the Jockey Club in Rio de Janeiro on February 24, 2018

Neither Marrero nor Verdasco could be reached for comment. Though monitoring of betting markets is often used to detect possible match-fixing, such data alone is not enough to lead to a conviction.

Marrero previously attracted suspicion over unusual betting patterns during the 2016 Australian Open, when such abnormally large bets were placed against Marrero and his partner Lara Arruabarrena in a first-round mixed doubles match that Pinnacle suspended betting 13 hours before it began. The pair lost the match, 6-0, 6-3.

Later during that tournament, tennis governing bodies announced they would create an independent review panel to assess the Tennis Integrity Unit’s effectiveness. The panel’s interim report came out in April. Its primary recommendations related to the lower levels of the professional ranks, where match-fixing is considered more endemic.

The T.I.U.’s biggest conviction to date came weeks later, with immediate implications at the Grand Slam level.

Hours before the French Open draw in May, 84th-ranked Nicolás Kicker became the highest-ranked player (at time of conviction) to be found guilty of a match-fixing offense by the Tennis Integrity Unit, and he was removed from the tournament. A month later, Kicker’s penalty was announced as a $25,000 fine and six-year ban, with three of the years suspended on a probationary basis.

Spain's Fernando Verdasco, right, and David Marrero celebrate after winning the doubles final of the Rio Open tennis tournament against Nikola Mektic, of Croatia, and Alexander Peya, of Austria, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. © AP Photo/Leo Correa Spain's Fernando Verdasco, right, and David Marrero celebrate after winning the doubles final of the Rio Open tennis tournament against Nikola Mektic, of Croatia, and Alexander Peya, of Austria, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018.

When the draw was made for Wimbledon this year and betting was opened on the match, Sousa and Mayer started out as 17/10 underdogs, implying a 37 percent chance of winning. The odds drifted in their favor, slowly at first and then quickly. In a 45-minute stretch shortly before the match began, last-minute wagers pouring in moved Sousa and Mayer from roughly 7/9 to 4/9, or from a 56.5 percent chance of winning to 69 percent.

As the late money had seemed confident they would, Sousa and Mayer won the match, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-1.

Because unforced errors are a common part of any tennis match, reviewing video of the match is generally inconclusive. Marrero did serve for the first set up 6-5, but a series of unforced errors by him and Verdasco put the match back on serve. In the ensuing tiebreak, Verdasco hit consecutive double faults.

Marrero saved a match point with a dive volley in the third-set tiebreak, but the pair lost the fourth set quickly, in 27 minutes.

Wimbledon directed inquiries about the match to the Tennis Integrity Unit. Mark Harrison, spokesman for the group, said that “as an operational matter the TIU will not be making any comment,” keeping in line with the group’s refusal to confirm or comment on any specific match or person possibly under investigation.

“We do publish match alert statistics periodically, but they are anonymized in terms of the players and matches involved,” Harrison said.

Related: Wimbledon day nine round-up (Read Sport)

Wimbledon: Day Nine round-up: The Wimbledon men’s quarter-final day was definitely one to savour as the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were all in action.With the chance of Nadal facing Federer in the final, the Spaniard finally had his say on how he feels about facing his long-term rival.It was a day with some of the best tennis on show, but don’t worry if you missed it because we have you covered with all the best stories from Day Nine of the tournament. Wimbledon: Day Nine round-up

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