The fates of veteran Italian players Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace were handed down by the ITF Tuesday.
And for Bracciali, very active on the doubles circuit in 2018, it was a hard blow. He has been banned from tennis for life, and fined $250,000 US.
For Starace, three years younger at 37, it wasn’t a lifetime ban but as good as: 10 years and $100,000.
Per the ITF, Bracciali was found guilty of “match-fixing and associated offenses” after an investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit. The hearing was held in London Sept. 18-19.
The offenses were rare ones by TIU standards in that they occurred at the ATP level – at the Barcelona clay-court event in April, 2011.
Yes, more than 7 1/2 years ago.
Bracciali also was found to have “facilitated betting relating to the Barcelona match.”
Betting in Barcelona
The match in question was a first-round doubles loss to now top-10 player Kevin Anderson and retired Swedish doubles specialist Simon Aspelin.
The suspension means Bracciali “is prohibited from playing in or attending any sanctioned events organized or recognized by the governing bodies of the sport.”
Here are the breaches he was found guilty of:
Starace already off court since 2015
Starace reached a career high of No. 27 in singles in 2007 and No. 40 in doubles (with six career titles) in 2012, But he hasn’t played since July, 2015.
His 10-year suspension also goes back to that same ATP event in Barcelona.
In his case, it was a third-set retirement in his first-round match against Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
He was ranked No. 43 in singles at the time. And the following week, he reached the quarterfinals at the ATP event in Munich.
Starace was found guilty of breaching the same same rules outlined for Bracciali above.
Acquitted in Italian court
The two Italians had already dealt with these issues for years in an Italian court, before the TIU machine started to officially roll.
In February, 2015, the Italian Tennis Federation suspended both Bracciali and Starace for 40 days, part of a much bigger criminal probe into match-fixing in that country.
In August of that year, the Italian Federation banned them for life. There was some testimony from both about fixing ATP matches in Newport and in Casablanca. But those alleged offenses didn’t end up in the TIU’s decision.
By October, that lifetime ban had been rescinded completely for Starace, and reduced to one year for Bracciali.
More than two years later, they were acquitted. In fact, it was the day before Bracciali’s 40th birthday, which was Jan. 10, 2018.
He told the UbiTennis website at the time that the Tennis Integrity Unit had questioned him three years before (now almost four years ago). But that despite him “repeatedly asking them for a hearing”, they hadn’t been back in touch.
In the meantime, he was still technically allowed to play on the ITF Tour (which he didn’t, except for one event, during those three years). But the ATP could prevent him from playing while he was involved in a criminal trial.
Ironically, Bracciali already had been playing with a protected ranking of No. 89, which was frozen during his ATP suspension and reactivated once he was acquitted in the trial. It came in handy later.
As for Starace, he served the 40-day Italian suspension then returned to play, although only for five tournaments. He reportedly has a tennis academy in Rome.
Both players had previously been suspended back in 2008.
Between 2008 and 2009 Daniele Bracciali received 51 (fifty one) Wildcards into tournaments mainly in Italian Challenger and ITFs. Somebody wanted him in those draws ………
— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) November 21, 2018
A busy 2018 for Bracciali
The minute he was eligible to do so, Bracciali returned to action. He had no official ranking, obviously. After his first three events, he checked back onto the list at No. 1,182.
But having that protected ranking allowed him to play all season long – even at the ATP Tour level.
He reached the third round at the French Open with countryman Andreas Seppi. And then, he won the Gstaad clay-court ATP event with Matteo Berrettini. Bracciali followed that up with another final in Kitzbuhel the following week.
On some level, he must have thought it was his final hurrah. He has squeezed in 25 tournaments this season – all but one of them in the six-month period between early May and November.
Bracciali even played this week, at a Challenger in Andria, Italy. He’s seeded No. 2 with Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus. They won their first-round match. But their quarterfinal opponents won by walkover Wednesday.
Going into this week, he earned a total of $82,033 US. And he got his doubles ranking back inside the top 100. Bracciali stands at No. 95 this week.
If there was an full-circle kind of end to the Italian’s professional career (barring any appeals he might make to the Court of Arbitration for sport, if applicable), it came in his final match.
Teaming up with Andreas Mies of Germany, Bracciali lost in the first round of the Slovak Open Challenger in Bratislava to Spaniards Gerard Granollers and David Marrero.
As it happens, Marrero was his partner in that 2011 match in Barcelona that, 7 1/2 years later, resulted in a lifetime suspension.