The TIU loves Marco Trungelliti

Back in February, La Nación broke the story about Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti and his courage in coming forth to blow the lid off a match-fixing organization in his native land.

More recently, an English-language story by the Associated Press two weeks ago  gave Trungelliti’s story more widespread attention.

It chronicled the treatment he has received at the hands of his peers. And it went into how he’s been accused of being a snitch – and worse.

To that end, the Tennis Integrity Unit issued a statement late Wednesday in London. Belatedly, it offered its full support relative to Trungelliti’s cooperation.

The statement indicated that it has not confirmed or commented on Trungelliti’s involvement in the prosecution of three of his countrymen because of its “confidentiality policy.”

Trungelliti takes on the match-fixers

“The Tennis Integrity Unit’s intention is at all times to protect the identity of witnesses,” the statement said.

“The highest level of integrity”

But in the wake of the criticism Trungelliti has received and the questioning of his motives for cooperating, it wrote the following:

“The TIU unreservedly condemns the treatment received by Mr Trungelliti. And it would like to place on record its appreciation of his support and full compliance with the TACP. The TIU also wishes to confirm the facts surrounding his involvement:

*Mr Trungelliti voluntarily reported a corrupt approach he received from a third party to the TIU, in line with the agreement contained in the TACP, which is signed by all professional tennis players

*At no point has Mr Trungelliti ever been the subject of any investigation, charge or sanction by the TIU

*He received no payment for the information he provided. And he has never requested or been offered any kind of plea bargain or other agreement with the TIU.”

The Great Marco Trungelliti Road Trip

The statement adds that Trungelliti “has acted with the highest level of integrity and with the best interests of the sport in mind. His courageous and principled stand against those who seek to corrupt is to be admired and commended.”

Better late than never. But kind of late. The AP story came out two weeks ago.

Tough times for Marco Trungelliti

Trungelliti retired during a Challenger match in early April. And he withdrew before his final-round qualifying match in Monte Carlo several weeks ago, because of a recurring back issue.

He has not played since. But regardless of all the recent attention, he would have arrived at the French Open with a disproportionate amount of attention for a qualifier.

The Argentine’s Roland Garros Road Trip saga with his grandmother was one of the feel-good moments of last year’s event. And so it would have made him a subject of interest, one year later.

Kicker looking for reduced suspension

Trungelliti takes on the match-fixers

Remember Marco Trungelliti?

He’s the journeyman Argentine player whose road-trip odyssey from Spain to Roland Garros  – with his grandma in tow, no less – was one of the feel-good stories at the French Open last year.

A raft of late withdrawals because of the new “get half your prize money” rule meant that there were more lucky loser spots than players still in town to claim them.

And Trungelliti, who had lost in the final round of qualifying but, with a ranking of No. 190 and far down the list felt there was no shot, had gone back to Barcelona.

He made the 10-hour trip back. And then, he beat Bernard Tomic in the first round before losing to eventual semifinalist Marco Cecchinato. The 99,000 Euros he earned no doubt helped subsidize his entire year.

The Great Marco Trungelliti Road Trip

Well, it turns out he has quite a story to tell – one that went on for more than three years even through his great Roland Garros adventure.

And it’s comprehensively told in a story in La Nacion.

The newspaper got access to the Tennis Integrity Unit’s documents about the case.  

Please click on the link and give them the page views they deserve for their painstaking work on this. If your Spanish isn’t up to it, Google Translate does a decent job on this one.

Here’s a brief summary of the events, and the consequences.

Briefcases and envelopes full of cash

Trungelliti – who just turned 29 and currently is at a career-high No. 117 in the singles rankings, wasn’t in a great place four years ago.

He’d been out there grinding for eight years – rarely even getting out of South America. He had finally reached the point where he could squeeze into a couple of Grand Slam qualifying tournaments, but couldn’t make it. It looked like he was going to be a career Challenger player. 

And then, through a friend, a “guardian angel” contacted him on Facebook, asking to meet and saying he’d get him a sponsor to help him break that Challenger ceiling.

The two men he met outlined the match-fixing system they had in place. It included secret cell-phone calls and briefcases and envelopes of cash handed over personally.

They gave him eight names of players they had on the plan – from Argentina, and other countries as well.

(Click below for the full story by Sebastian Torok in La Nación)Trungelliti

Reporting to the TIU

Trungelliti left for Europe. And with the help of a friend whose English was better, he alerted the TIU some six weeks later.

There were some contacts with the TIU at first. But nothing happened for two whole years.

As all this was happening, Trungelliti was still trying to compete in tournaments – and was very, very concerned that these guys (who knew where he lived) would retaliate in some way. In Argentina, that’s no irrational concern.

The match-fixers kept in touch. And the information Trungelliti was able to provide led to the investigations and suspensions of several players.

Trungelliti

Those included countrymen Federico Coria, Nicolás Kicker and Patricio Heras. Trungelliti ended up having to testify in all three cases during the spring of 2018. That was something he was not prepared for. But he did it, via Skype from Barcelona. He was able to see the faces of the players on trial, at a location in Miami. And they were able to see him.

These three are among the bigger fish that the TIU has managed to nab. They were three viable players – not guys ranked outside the top 1,000 that no one had ever heard of, as is typically the case.

TIU catches medium fish in Nicolas Kicker

So if you thought that was the TIU doing an impressive investigative job, it turns out that it was all because of the Herculean efforts of one honest man.

And, in coming forward, Trungelliti was put through the wringer and also had to suffer a huge distraction – for three years – during which time he was struggling to establish his career.

A hero? Not to some fellow players

Argentine Heras convicted of match-fixing

You’d think Trungelliti would be hailed for this by his fellow players, who surely want to keep the sport honest and clean, right?

Not so much.

According to the La Nación story, he was basically called a rat and a squealer. 

Harassment. Threats. Trungelliti and his wife moved from Barcelona to the tax-free haven of Andorra. They didn’t want to return to Argentina.

But of course, that is the job. Trungelliti makes his living on the dirt. And South America is where the ATP clay-court events are.

The 29-year-old was in Córdoba last week, and was in the qualifying of Buenos Aires this week.

Trungelliti
Trungelliti charms the press conference room at Roland Garros last year, after his win over Bernard Tomic in the first round of the main draw. Who knew he had this huge thing hanging over his head. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

No wild cards in Argentina

It’s probably unrelated, but the Argentine tournaments on the South American swing did him absolutely no favours.

Trungelliti was the highest-ranked Argentine not to get directly into Córdoba. The tournament gave a wild card to Juan Ignacio Londero, ranked just ahead of him and to 36-year-old Carlos Berlocq, a Buenos Aires native ranked some 20 spots behind him.

The third wild card went to a Brazilian teenager named Thiago Seyboth Wild, ranked No. 451.

In Buenos Aires this coming week, Trungelliti again was the highest-ranked Argentine not in the main draw.

One wild card went to David Ferrer. A second went to Canadian up-and-comer Félix Auger-Aliassime. The third went to a 20-year-old Argentine named Francisco Cerundolo who has no ATP ranking.

Cerundolo is a Buenos Aires native who won a pre-qualifying tournament in December to earn the spot.

Seeded in qualifying at both events, Trungelliti lost in the first round in both. Hardly surprising, given all that’s going on.

So he earned a total of $2,725 – and an untold amount of stress – during his trip home.

The irony? It’s entirely likely some of the betting scum lost money on Trungelliti, given he was the favorite in both those matches.

If anything, Trungelliti’s saga is a cautionary tale to any players tempted to turn in the bad guys.

You do the right thing, and it’s going to hang over you for years by the time the authorities get around to doing anything. And you’ll get threatened, for your extra pleasure.