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Some thoughts on the tennis match fixing scandal

It has been all over the news, and it does not sound good at all - not for the sports bettors, and even less so for the sport itself. While I am convinced that there have been incidents where match results have been fixed and money was made betting on rigged matches, I also firmly believe that this has been blown out of proportion by the media.

First off, it seems that the scandal is mostly about incidents from the past, like 10 years back or more. After some cases were reported,  the "Tennis Integrity Unit" was founded in 2008. Ever since, the TIU has monitored match activity, as well as betting activities by cooperating with sportsbetting companies. It should actually be easy to identify possible fraud if you know what to look for.

Why would top tennis players fix a match?

Simple answer: they would not. Here's why: In a Grand Slam tournament, the draw has 128 players. 25 of those players are qualifiers, wild cards and lucky losers. That means that you have to be ranked around #100 ATP to get a direct spot in the main draw. That spot guarantees you, taking the 2016 Aussie Open as an example, a prize money of $34,500 even if you lose the first round. Win the first round, and you have $60,000, win the second round and you have $ 97,500.

So, as long as you stay in the top 100 ATP rankings, you will have a guaranteed yearly prize money of app. $160,000 (4 Grand Slams, some of which pay more for the first round than the Aussie Open does). Every player who is among those 100 top ranked players will fight tooth and nail to stay there - which is not easy at all! They need that money to simply be able to afford playing the tour. After all, the expenses for air travel, hotels, or even ahving your own coach are pretty high.

So those guys would never throw a match just to make a quick buck. And I am not even talking about the potential risk of getting caught and banned from the tour.

What about players on the middle and low levels?

Ok, here it is obviously a different story. If you were talking about a younger, up-and-coming player, the above reasoning stands because he is trying to get into the top 100, so no motivation for match fixing against cash. The real danger begins when a player is in a situation where he has to come to terms that he will never or no longer be able to make it into the ranks where money is being made. At that point, he might be receptive to match fixing offers.

What could be a typical profile for match fixing?

That would be a player in his late twenties or older, who has recently dropped out of the top 100, and who would come from a country where match fixing in other sports would be widespread. Some would say that the Balkans are such an area, but I am not going to speculate here - apply your own common sense please.

It is a fact that players ranked lower than #100 do not make a lot of money - the expenses of playing the tour eat up most of your winnings, unless you only play tournaments close to home, don't work with a coach etc. 

Should it not be easy to identify potential match fixing cases?

Absolutely. It should be fairly simple. Let's put ourselves in the shoes of a fraudulent bettor, who finds and pays off players to throw a match. What would his strategy have to be?

He can't place too many winning bets from one account. To make money, you would have to bet huge sums, like 6-digit or even millions of $, to offset your expenses. Also, you would not want to place hundreds of smaller bets, that would be even more suspicious. How many of those large bets can you make (and win) from one account before the betting company is on to you?

So you need loads of dummy accounts, but due to the "Know Your Customer" strategy that all main sports betting companies apply, you need a real person to hold that account so that you can cash out. You need more than one player to throw matches for you - use the same player all the time, it would raise suspicion. So there are more and more players in the know, which is a risk.

That said, it should be possible to supervise all betting activity and filter out suspicious activity and investigate them. I mean, how many 6-digit bets are being placed on tennis matches, and how many of the bettors who make them win consistently. Filter the activity some more by finding incidents where the same player is involved more than twice, do some profiling as suggested by me above, and you would be looking at a pretty short list of possibles. All you have to do then is take a look at the match footage and looks for clues that a player's performance is not like his normal at all. It won't give you proof, but it is something. Send a friendly warning to the player, and he would get the message loud and clear.

So what can you do to protect your own tennis betting against match fixing?

Asides from taking the aforementioned facts into consideration, you should definitely use an online sports betting website with a great reputation. Offline sportsbooks may be reluctant to open their books for institutions like the TIU, even if it seems to be in their own best interest. Online betting websites are, by nature, very good at fighting fraudulent account creating. This is another aspect why you should consider my personal favorite sportsbetting site, Bet365. They work with the TIU and let us not forget that they are the only sportsbetting website that I know that allows you to bet on all kinds of outcomes during a tennis match (next point, next game, next break, number of games in current set and many more!)

If you are serious about your tennis betting (and having read this long article from beginning to end is proof that you do), click here and sign up with Bet365 and you will find out why they are the #1 choice for tennis betting.