Fear, Bribery and Death Threats - Spain’s match-fixing crises - UBITENNIS
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Fear, Bribery and Death Threats – Spain’s match-fixing crises

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It is an epidemic that has been casting a black cloud over tennis for a considerable amount of time. Match-fixing or illegal gambling is one of the most problematic issues for tennis, especially in lower level tournaments. Now the people behind the scandals are becoming more blatant than ever before following an investigation by Spanish sports website Marca.com.

A group of 20-40 people attends ITF events in Spain reguarly, saying that they are fans of the ITF women’s circuit. Their reason for attending is legitimate and there is nothing suspicious until more attention is spent on the group. They come prepared with mobile phones, laptops and PDA’s. Their mission is to capitalize on a gambling loophole that they have identified.

Between the moment the players win the point to the time it appears on the official livescore, there is a 20-30 second gap. The gap is enough time for the group to manipulate the gambling to their advantage before the score is updated. The group has no fear of being approached by the tournament officials.

Hey! I’ll give you 5,000 euros if you lose this game with your service“. One member shouted during a match.

The extent of the problem has led to death threats over social media networks to officials, players and staff at the tournaments. During an Spanish ITF Women’s $10,000 event in June, a group of 30 were evicted. The eviction was short-lived due to a legal loophole which states that the group had to be accepted back the following day. To aid their bets, they try to bribe the players. One Marca source reported that one player was offered 500 euros to participate in one bet.

One of the most troublesome incidents occurred two weeks ago. In the men’s ITF $10,000 event at the Ciudad La Raqueta in Madrid, officials alerted authorities about a group who allegedly bet 80,000 euros. They said that players ‘were living in fear‘ after recieving threats during the tournament.

Not just a Spanish problem

The incidents uncovered by Marca are worrying, but not uncommon. Last year Danish media reported that player’s were offered up to 30000 kroner ($5402.87) during two ITF events in Denmark. It is understood that the players were contacted by phone and social media. In addition, former top 50 player Oscar Hernandez, said last year that he is ‘100% sure that match-fixing occurs in tennis’. More recently Belgium has launched an internal investigation into tennis match-fixing due to ‘suspicious betting patterns’.

The issue is a worldwide headache for the tennis federation’s due to the amount of tournament’s played. The sport of the third most bet on sport in the world, explaining why is it such an issue. The issue appears harmless until somebody’s life is threatened, an situation which is becoming a common scenario in lower ranked tennis competitions.

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Triple Grand Slam Champion Andy Murray To Retire After Paris Olympics

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Andy Murray has confirmed the Paris Olympic Games will be the last tennis event he plays before ending his career at the age of 37. 

It was expected that the former world No.1 would retire from the sport this year but it is the first time he has confirmed what his last event will be. Murray announced his plans in a post on social media website X this morning ahead of the Olympics, where he is playing in both singles and doubles events. The tennis tournament is taking place on clay at Roland Garros, which is the venue of the French Open.

“Arrived in Paris for my last ever tennis tournament,” Murray wrote on X.

“Competing for Team GB has been by far the most memorable weeks of my career and  I’m extremely proud to get to do it one final time!”

Murray is the only man in the Open Era to have won back-to-back singles gold medals at the Olympics. He was also Team GB’s flag-bearer for the 2016 games in Rio. Paris will be his fifth appearance in the Olympics. 

The announcement follows an emotional farewell for the Brit at Wimbledon where he received a special presentation on Center Court following his first round loss in the doubles. An array of sporting stars such as Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova attended the event with a special on-court interview conducted by Sue Barker. Murray was also due to play in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon with Emma Eaducanu but his partner pulled out of the event due to soreness in her wrist. 

“I would love to keep playing, but I can’t physically. It is too tough now. All of the injuries, they’ve added up. … They haven’t been insignificant. But yeah, I want to play forever,” Murray told the BBC.

“I love the sport. It’s given me so much, and taught me loads of lessons over the years that I can use for the rest of my life. But yeah, I don’t want to stop, so it is hard.”

Murray has been a pivotal figure in British tennis. In 2013 he became the first man from his country to win the Wimbledon title for 77 years before winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 2016. He also won the US Open in 2012, reached the final of the Australian Open five times, and was runner-up at the 2016 French Open. Overall, Murray has won 46 ATP titles and made more than $64M in prize money. In the Davis Cup, he guided his country to the trophy in 2015 by winning all 11 matches he played in both singles and doubles.

Among his achievements, Murray was the first athlete to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on three separate occasions (2013, 2015, and 2016). In 2019 he became only the second tennis player in history to be knighted and the first to do so since 1939. He is also the only British man to have topped the ATP rankings system, holding the position for 41 weeks. 

Injury issues have also played a role in Murray’s career, especially during the later part of it. He contemplated retiring from the sport five years ago due to a serious hip issue before undergoing resurfacing surgery that enabled him to continue playing with a metal rod inserted into his hip joint. Since then, he has also suffered other minor setbacks such as an ankle injury earlier this season followed by a back issue that forced him out of the singles event at Wimbledon. 

Murray will find out who he faces in the final tournament of his career on Thursday when the draw takes place for the Olympic tennis events. 

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Czechia Changes Olympic Line-Up Following Withdrawal Of Tokyo Medalist Vondrousova

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Marketa Vondrousova - BJK Cup Praga 2022 (foto ITF Martin Sidorjak)

Former Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova has pulled out of the Olympic Games less than a week before the tournament starts due to injury.

Vondrousova, who won a silver medal in the Tokyo Games three years ago, has been forced to miss the event due to a hand injury. The Czech was set to return to action for the first time since Wimbledon, where she suffered a shock first round defeat to Spain’s Jessica Bouzas Maneiro. Last month she also suffered a separate injury scare after slipping on the grass at the Berlin Open. 

“I am very sorry, but for health reasons I am not participating in this year’s Olympic Games in Paris,” Vondrousa wrote in Czech on Instagram.

“I was hoping until the last moment that it could go at least in doubles, but problems with my hand won’t let me on the court.

The 25-year-old hopes to recover in time for the North American hardcourt swing which ends with the US Open. She is currently ranked 18th in the world and is in danger of dropping out of the top 20 for the first time since July 2023. 

“I am concentrating now on being well at the US Open, I will keep my fingers crossed for all the Czech representatives in France from a distance.” Vondrousova outlined. 

Following the withdrawal, Katerina Siniakova has been given a place in the singles draw. Siniakova is better known for her doubles success, winning nine major titles, including this year’s French Open and Wimbledon. 

Linda Noskova has been brought in to fill the vacant double spot where she will be playing alongside Karolina Muchova. 

The draw for the Olympic Tennis event will take place on Thursday, July 25th at 10am UK time. The first round of matches is scheduled to start on Saturday 27 July through to the finals on Sunday 4 August. This year’s tournament is being held at Roland Garros which is the venue of the French Open. 

List of seeds for the Olympic singles tournament (as of 22/07/2024)

WOMEN

1 – Swiatek POL

2 – Gauff USA

3 – Rybakina KAZ

4 – Paolini ITA

5 – Pegula USA

6 – Qinwen CHN

7 – Sakkari GRE

8- Collins USA

9 – Krejcikova CZE

10 – Ostapenko LAT

11 – Navarro USA

12 – Kostyuk UKR

13 – Vekic CRO

14 – Haddad Maia BRA 

15 – Shnaider AIN*

16 – Fernandez CAN

MEN

1 – Sinner ITA

2 – Djokovic SRB

3 – Alcaraz ESP

4 – Zverev GER

5 – Medvedev AIN*

6 – De Minaur AUS

7 – Hurkacz POL

8 – Ruud NOR

9 – Fritz USA

10 – Tsitsipas GRE

11 – Paul USA

12 – Humbert FRA 

13 – Rune NOR

14 – Musetti ITA

15 – Baez ARG

16 – Auger-Aliassime CAN

*Russian and Belarussian athletes at the 2024 Olympics are referred to as Individual Neutral Athletes (INA) due to the suspension of those two countries due to the war in Ukraine. They are only allowed to compete as long as they don’t show any symbols of their home countries and have shown no support for the war. 

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Nuno Borges Denies Erratic Nadal First Title In Two Years At Swedish Open

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Nuno Borges has become the second Portuguese player in history to win an ATP title after beating a lacklustre Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the Bastad Open in Sweden. 

Borges, who was seeded seventh in the tournament, capitalised on his rival’s patchy play and produced a series of impressive drop shots to claim a 6-3, 6-2, victory. He has dropped only one set in the entire tournament which was in the second round against compatriot Henrique Rocha. The maiden title triumph will elevate him to a ranking high of 42 on Monday. 

The run to the title follows what has been a difficult past few weeks for the 27-year-old, who had suffered first round losses at four consecutive tournaments before Bastad. At the start of this season, he achieved his best-ever Grand Slam run by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. 

“I was wishing for this moment for a while. It’s crazy,” Borges said during his on-court interview.
“I know we all wanted Rafa to win, and a part of me wished that, too. But something even bigger inside of me really pushed through today.
“Through the emotions, through all the ups and downs. It wasn’t about playing my best tennis today. It was just coming up in the big moments where I wanted and I couldn’t have played better.”

Throughout the clash, 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal struggled with his serve and was broken five times. He was particularly fragile behind his second serve where he won just 28% of points (5/18). Serving has been an issue for Nadal throughout the tournament with him getting broken 16 times across his three previous matches but in all of those encounters, he managed to find a way to win. However, he was unable to find a way to beat Borges. 

“Many congratulations to Nuno. You play great during the whole week, so you deserve it more than anybody else here.” Nadal said in tribute to his opponent. 
“I have been here during the whole week enjoying this amazing place. I really had fun on the court. Played some very long, some good matches, some not that good moments.
Today wasn’t my best day but all the credit to Nuno. He played very well and it was so difficult for me.”

Nadal, whose quarter-final match against Mariano Navone lasted a marathon of four hours, was seeking to win the trophy for the first time since 2005. He was playing in his first tournament since losing in the first round of the French Open to Alexander Zverev. 

“I don’t know if I will be back here playing, probably not, but I enjoy it a lot. Playing for one more time here, without a doubt.” He said. 

As for Borges, he has achieved one of his childhood dreams which was to play Nadal in the final of an ATP event. The only other player from Portugal to have won a title on the men’s tour is Joao Sousa.

“It’s my first time here and I never thought I would be here playing in a full stadium against Rafa on clay. It is a dream come true and right now I’m living in the clouds.” Borges concluded. 

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