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Andy Murray’s new doubles partner Feliciano López denies match-fixing

The Guardian logo The Guardian 19/06/2019 Kevin Mitchell at Queen’s Club
Feliciano Lopez swinging a racket at a ball: Feliciano Lopez hits a backhand in his victory over Marton Fucsovics in the first round at Queen’s Club. © Getty Images Feliciano Lopez hits a backhand in his victory over Marton Fucsovics in the first round at Queen’s Club.

Feliciano López sought to restore some injured pride on Wednesday when he denied any suggestion that he and his regular doubles partner, Marc López, had been involved in an alleged betting scam at Wimbledon in 2017.

The Spaniard, who partners Andy Murray in his comeback at Queen’s Club on Thursday, beat the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4, in the first round of the singles at the Fever-Tree Championships on a rain-marred day three and then faced some tough media questions about the claims, which first appeared on Tuesday in the Spanish digital newspaper El Confidencial.

López, who won the 2016 French doubles title with his compatriot and namesake and was singles champion here in 2017, said he did not know and had never met the retired Spanish footballers reportedly under investigation for the alleged betting coup, Raúl Bravo, a Leeds player briefly in 2003, and La Liga veteran Carlos Aranda. “No, I didn’t,” López insisted.

Related: Feliciano López named in Wimbledon doubles match-fixing allegation

According to El Confidencial, Spanish police monitored a conversation between Aranda and a third party in which the player asked for 50% commission on any bets laid on the Spaniards losing their first-round match at Wimbledon in 2017 against the Australian outsiders John-Patrick Smith and Matt Reid. The López duo, seeded 11th, lost in four sets, the day after Feliciano withdrew from a singles match with a leg injury.

In a prepared statement López said on Wednesday: “Following reports in the media that mentioned my name and my partner, Marc López, I feel it is still important to come to you and absolutely deny any link with events described in relation to the allegations of match‑fixing.

“Unfortunately, all tennis players are public figures and exposed to having our good name used beyond our control. For that reason I will do everything within my power to defend myself against any such false accusations.

“Marc and I had immediately contacted the TIU [Tennis Integrity Unit] to fully cooperate, and they confirmed that there had been no investigation about that match at Wimbledon 2017. We have full faith in the TIU and the role they play protecting our sport.”

The TIU, however, had earlier refused to confirm or deny whether it had been asked to investigate the case, an information vacuum that did little to help López’s initial protestation of innocence.

López revealed Murray “didn’t say anything” to him about the stories, adding: “This thing can happen to every one of us. He’s happy to play with me this week. I think we can play great and he’s been training normal. Andy is one of the best players in the history of tennis and I’m very lucky to be playing with him.”

López also confided that he had been falsely accused in a British newspaper 16 years ago of throwing a match when he retired ill against Jarkko Nieminen in the first round of a tournament in Long Island. “I saw the article. I went to my lawyers. They had to publish another article saying that I was not involved in any match-fixing at that time.”

Related: Andy Murray says he is back in love with tennis as he prepares for Queen’s

He said of his win against Fucsovics: “It’s not easy when you find yourself in an article saying that you might be a match-fixer. But I believe that I didn’t do anything wrong, no? I have to deal with a lot of tweets regarding the issue, but I was just trying to focus on the match today. It was difficult for me to play and I’m very happy that I went through a difficult situation when I was a set and a break down and I made it.”

On a day when rain again wrecked the schedule although Dan Evans did get on court and was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Stan Wawrinka, discussions switched to the wildcards Wimbledon announced for the championships, which start on 1 July. There was bemusement that Marco Baghdatis, 139 in the world, again is ushered into the main draw, but celebration for the 19-year-old Paul Jubb, of Hull.

“I don’t think he was worth a wildcard,” John Lloyd said of Baghdatis, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2006 and quarter-finalist the following year. “He’s not a big enough name and what he did was a long time ago.”

Jubb’s wildcard – alongside the 20-year-old Jay Clarke and evergreen James Ward – gives the British presence in the men’s draw a patina of respectability, in support of Dan Evans, Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie.

The Hull teenager, not known widely outside the game’s hardcore, grabbed headlines briefly last month when he became the first British player to win the highest honour in American college tennis, the NCAA title. Norrie, who also played college tennis, said, “He’s solid and a good athlete with a good serve. I think it’s a hell of an achievement.”

Jubb’s parents died when he was young and he was brought up by his grandmother before winning a scholarship that has transformed his young career. He will resume studies after Wimbledon and has indicated he will turn professional in May next year.

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