Tennis Integrity Unit Monitoring Chicanery in Off-Tour Exhibition Tilts

Posted on: July 12, 2020, 09:08h. 

Last updated on: July 13, 2020, 02:15h.

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) — the organization that evaluates match-fixing allegations within the sport — is investigating widespread claims of that nefarious deed at various off-tour exhibitions that are popping up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tennis Integrity Unit Looks At Match-Fixing
Novak Djokovic was pumped to win the Australian Open earlier this year, but some players won’t be excited if the TIU investigates them on match collusion reports. (Image: New York Times)

As is the case with an array of other sports around the world, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have been sidelined since March because of COVID-19. There are some avenues for tennis bettors to fill the void, and one is the proliferation of non-competitive exhibition matches.

Privately organized tennis tournaments staged during the lockdown of professional tennis between April and June resulted in 24 suspicious matches being reported to the TIU by regulated betting operators,” said the organization in a statement.

TIU did not identify at which tournaments the alleged match corruption took place.

Road Map Jaundiced by Greed

On March 18, the ATP and WTA temporarily shut down their 2020 seasons, and there were multiple postponements as to when the tours would return. Along the way, Wimbledon was canceled, marking the first time since World War II the Grand Slam event held at the All England Club was scrapped.

With murky visibility as to when competitive tennis will return, some players and others involved with the sport took it upon themselves to organize tournaments and matches. Some even included high-profile stars. For example, 17-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic was behind the Adria Tour, However, he and four others associated with that effort contracted COVID-19.

The idea behind the “mini tours” and non-competitive matches was simple enough: provide an avenue for athletes to remain sharp while potentially delivering a template to the ATP and WTA as to how the tours can restart in August after being on the sidelines for several months.

However, many of the events were small-scale, not attracting names such as Djokovic or Roger Federer. That led to speculation that anonymous events chock full of unheralded players could be fertile ground for match-fixers.

There’s something to that line of thinking. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, TIU fielded an unusually large spike in match corruption claims, the bulk of which came from lower-level competitions.

Preparing for the Worst

While the ATP and WTA tours have been shut down, TIU has been active in preparing for betting shenanigans when the sport resumes. The group is producing “Return To Tennis” webinars to help the tours deal with “integrity challenges” when competitive play returns.

“Suspicious betting on tennis during the lockdown is seen as a firm indicator that corruptors remain active, and are likely to increase their focus on the sport when professional tennis resumes in August,” said TIU.

When it comes to competition corruption, TIU receives alerts from sportsbooks and notes that, while it looks into those notifications, not all turn up evidence of match-fixing.

Last month, TIU suspended and fined two players and an official for corruption offenses.