A first-round doubles match at the Wimbledon tennis tournament was flagged for possible signs of match-fixing following suspicious betting activity in a 45-minute period just before the match began.

Wimbledon match-fixing

Fernando Verdasco (left) and David Marrero celebrate after winning the Rio Open men’s doubles title in February 2018. (Image: EFE)

The unusual betting patterns were found by Pinnacle Sports, which led the bookmaker to notify officials of the potential integrity issues in the match.

Odds Shift Dramatically in Hour Before Match

The suspicions were first reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which refused to name the players involved for legal reasons.

However, the New York Times and other media outlets confirmed with Pinnacle that it was the match between the pair of Joao Sousa and Leonardo Mayer and the Spanish team of David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco.

Marrero and Verdasco opened as favorites in the match, but the odds slowly moved towards Sousa and Mayer in the days after the draw was released. About an hour before the match, Sousa and Mayer had become 7/9 favorites; 45 minutes later, those odds were cut to 4/9.

The movement was largely caused by “a series of bets from accounts with a history of wagering on suspicious matches,” Pinnacle sports integrity manager Sam Gomersall told ABC.

“We would anticipate some minor odds movement in any tennis match,” Gomersall said. “But the odds movement…just under an hour before it was due to start is certainly out of the ordinary.”

Sousa and Mayer ultimately went on to win the match by a score of 7-6 (8-6). 6-4, 6-7 (9-7), 6-1. While there were periods of the match in which Marrero and Verdasco did not play well, it was unclear if anything particularly suspicious happened in terms of the play on the court.

Marrero No Stranger to Allegations

This is not the first time that Marrero has been part of a match that has been the target of suspicious betting activity. Back in the 2016 Australian Open, Pinnacle suspended betting on a mixed doubles match featuring Marrero and partner Lara Arruabarrena hours before they took the court. They would go on to lose the match 6-0, 6-3.

It is likely that the circumstances around the match will now be investigated by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU). However, based on the normal operational procedures of that body, they have not commented on the match or even whether it is being investigated at all.

Suspicions of match-fixing are hardly rare in tennis, especially at the lower levels of the game. In May, the TIU ruled that Argentinian tennis player Nicolas Kicker fixed two matches on the ATP Challenger level in 2015, banning him from tournament competition for six years and fining him $25,000.

But even the highest levels of the sport sometimes come under scrutiny. Last year, TIU officials investigated three Wimbledon matches and one contest from the French Open due to similarly suspicious betting patterns.

These patterns are not necessarily indicative of match-fixing, however. Even if it turns out that the betting wasn’t on the level, other factors like access to inside information about injury or illness can also threaten the integrity of betting markets even when players are not purposely losing matches.