TORONTO – There was rather surprising news from the Tennis Anti-Corruption unit Wednesday,.
It’s not the sort of news that usually comes out of that organization, which is the watchdog for gambling offences and match-fixing.
It’s really right out of left field.
Veteran Chinese player Shuai Peng has been assessed a six-month ban and a $10,000 fine for a breach of the Tennis Integrity Unit code at Wimbledon a year ago.
Half of the suspension and half of the fine were suspended on condition of no further breaches. But Peng won’t be eligible to play again until Nov. 8, which effectively ends her season.
Bribing a partner to withdraw
According to the TIU’s release, Peng “was found to have used coercion and offered the possibility of financial reward in return for her main draw partner agreeing to withdraw from the ladies doubles event at Wimbledon 2017.”
Peng’s former coach, Bertrand Perret, found himself issued a three-month ban on tournament credentials in connection with the same incident. He was found to also have been involved in the “coercion” and financial inducement.
He had been coaching Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. So this affects her as well.
It’s unclear exactly what the sequences of events was, although the release states that Peng attempted to “change her doubles partner” after the sign-in deadline.
The offer was refused. And Peng didn’t end up playing the doubles at Wimbledon. She reached the third round of singles.
The player involved was reportedly Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck. She also didn’t play the doubles.
First-round doubles losers at Wimbledon in 2017 split nearly $14,000 in prize money.
The rule breached was the following: “No Covered Person shall, directly or indirectly, contrive or attempt to contrive the outcome or any other aspect of any Event.”
The hearing took place in London on July 16.
Trying to get around the rules
Generally speaking, if one player pulls out of a doubles event, the team is automatically out. But per the Grand Slam rules, if one player withdraws because of injury after the deadline – but before the draw is made – his or her partner can enter with someone else provided their rankings would have allowed it before the original deadline.
All of this is a different twist on the TIU’s usual MO, because obviously it occurred before the draw. And it did not contrive the outcome of a particular match.
It will be interesting to see if the suspension affects Peng’s participation in the Asian Games, if indeed she was planning to play.
Peng hasn’t played since Wimbledon and has won just one singles match since late April, at a WTA $125K tournament in Anning, China.
After teaming up with Andrea Hlavackova from the beginning of the 2017 season through Miami, Peng played with C-J Chuang of Taipei in Madrid, and then Ying-Ying Duan of China at the French Open.
When she returned to the Tour at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in August, she played with Sania Mirza for the rest of the season.
Chuang played with Misaki Doi at Wimbledon. Mirza played with Kirsten Flipkens.