Italy’s Daniele Bracciali, his trial for alleged match-fixing behind him, is back on the ATP Tour this week.
The timing couldn’t be more ironic, as the interim report by the independent review panel commissioned by the various tennis bodies two years ago finally dropped a few days ago.
In February, 2015, Bracciali and countryman Potito Starace were suspended 40 days by the Italian Tennis Federation as they probed a wide-ranging match-fixing scandal that also involved soccer.
The Associated Press reported that in meetings with investigators the previous November, Bracciali had admitted partial guilt.
A year ago this week they were still having hearings.
Last November, countryman Simone Bolelli (who is playing the qualifying this week in Estoril), testified.
Finally, in January, the Cremona court acquitted both Bracciali and Starace (and others). It was the day before Bracciali’s 40th birthday.
He immediately headed to Germany to play a Futures event that very week.
No ATP allowed for Bracciali
According to UbiTennis, Bracciali said in an interview he was allowed to play on the ITF circuit while all this was going on. But he added the the ATP would not allow him to compete.
In fact, he played just one tournament between the 2015 Australian Open and that return in Germany this past January. It was a Futures tournament in Italy played during last year’s US Open.
Bracciali played some open events and also started a tennis academy, according to UbiTennis.
Bracciali told the website the Tennis Integrity Unit questioned him, nearly three years ago now, and that he had repeatedly asked them for a hearing. But he said the TIU had not contacted him. And he added the ATP has a rule that states if a player is involved in a criminal trial, they can prevent him from playing on Tour at their discretion.
Following the Futures in Germany, Bracciali played a Challenger in Bergamo in February, losing in the first round.
Istanbul, with Jaziri
But this week, he’s back at the top level.
Bracciali and Malek Jaziri of Tunisia are in the doubles draw in Istanbul. They will face Canadian Daniel Nestor and American Jamie Cerretani in the first round.
The Italian still has a protected ranking of No. 89, despite his absence clearly not being injury-related. He had originally entered with countryman Andreas Seppi. But Seppi, who reached the semifinals in Budapest this week and lost a tough three-setter, isn’t playing doubles next week. So Bracciali signed in with Jaziri.
(NOTE: We’ve efforted with the ATP to get the exact details concerning Bracciali’s claim that he was not allowed to compete on the ATP Tour during the investigation. As for the protected ranking, he had it all the way back in 2015. And it seems it was frozen while he was on a provisional ATP suspension lifted when he was cleared by the Italian court in January).
Starace, now 36, continued to play in 2015 after serving the 40-day suspension. He even reached the semifinals at the Masters 1000 in Rome. But he hasn’t played since July, 2015.
He last played doubles at a Challenger in Mestre, Italy in June 2016 – and won the title with Flavio Cipolla.
“I was acquitted twice by sporting justice and finally also by ordinary justice. It remains so bitter in my mouth because I was in business and I had a good ranking when it all happened,” Starace told an Italian radio station after the January verdict. “Things have been said that weren’t true … things that hurt. But I knew I was innocent and I just waited for this moment, knowing it would end like this.”
Starace told the radio station he has a tennis academy in Rome, but he didn’t think he could return to the Tour. “I am 36 years old, I would have to start from scratch and I do not think I can do it “.
Bracciali and Starace’s history is hardly spotless, on the match-fixing side.
Nearly a decade ago, in 2008, the two also were suspended, the Telegraph reported.
At the time, Starace, 26, was the highest-ranked singles player in Italy at No. 31.
Starace’s suspension was for six weeks, the fine $20,000, for making five bets totalling a little over $100 in 2004.
Bracciali received a three-month suspension, and the same fine, for bets totally about $300 in 2004-05.
Per the Telegraph, both felt they had been made scapegoats, with the ATP wanting to make an example of them as the subject of match-fixing was a hot-button item.
Three other Italians – Alessio Di Mauro, Giorgio Galimberti and the late Federico Luzzi – also were suspended at the time.