Noted coach suspended by TIU for selling wild cards

The corruption issues involving tennis at the lower levels go well beyond match-fixing.

And Miguel Tobón, the former captain of Colombia’s Davis Cup team and a coach who has worked with many of South America’s most notable players, has been suspended by the Tennis Integrity Unit.

Not for any involvement in match fixing, but for selling wild cards.

Tobon received a 12-month suspension and was fined $20,000.

The sales involved six players, and were for both singles and doubles.

The official wording goes like this:

“Tennis coach Miguel Tobón has been suspended for 12 months and fined $20,000 after being found to have traded wild cards in return for payment at a number of tennis tournaments staged in 2017.”

Among the players Tobon has worked with are Alejandro Falla, Santiago Giraldo, Paul Capdeville, Nicolas Massu, Jacobo Diaz, Catalina Castano, Eduardo Struvay, Alejandro Gonzalez and the current top doubles team of Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal.

Now 50, his residence is listed as Pembroke Pines, Fla. where he has operated an academy. He played professionally from 1998-2001 and represented Colombia as a player in 50 Davis Cup ties before two stints as captain.

Challenger in Colombia for sale

The breaches of the Anti-Corruption program took place at three Challenger events in Colombia in 2017 in Floridablanca, Bogotá and Cali.

The TIU reports that he “entered into an agreement with an individual which involved him promoting tennis events in Colombia, for which he received wild cards at those tournaments.”

“He committed a further offence by failing to co-operate with a Tennis Integrity Unit investigation, by refusing to supply his mobile phone for analysis.”

The fine and the suspension are effective as of Friday.

Tobón also was ordered to pay back the equivalent of what he received for those wild cards, a total of $6,000.

He will be barred from attending or coaching at any sanctioned tennis event during the period of the suspension.

Seems like a big risk to take for a matter of $6,000.

Souza suspended, unsuspended – then suspended again

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for Brazil’s João Souza.

(Not to be confused with Portugal’s João Sousa).

The 30-year-old, currently ranked No. 422 after a career high of No. 69 almost exactly four years ago, is under provisional suspension from professional tennis.

The Tennis Integrity Unit is looking into “alleged breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program.”

The twist in this one is that Souza was already suspended briefly – then reinstated, briefly.

And now, he’s suspended again.

The original suspension was announced March 29 – and then mysteriously sort of disappeared.

Souza had made a “successful appeal”, per the TIU. And he was reinstated on April 8.

The veteran hadn’t played since a Challenger event in Chile in early March. But he returned to action this week at a Challenger in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It was his ninth tournament of the season.

With a ranking of No. 13 on the ITF Tennis Tour (built up on the Futures circuit in the second half of 2018), Souza can get into almost any Challenger he wants because of the reserved places for top-ranked ITF players in each tournament.

And so he posted victories over qualifier Gerardo Lopez of Mexico in the first round, and then a straight-sets upset over No. 8 seed Mohamed Safwat of Egypt.

But Souza was forced to give Marcelo Barrios Vera of Chile a walkover in the third round Thursday.

“Additional evidence submitted”

The reason why became clear with the TIU’s announcement Friday.

It indicated that the provisional suspension was re-imposed “following consideration of additional evidence submitted by the TIU”. As well, no more appeals will be allowed. 

Souza earned $860 (!!!) and seven ATP Tour ranking points in San Luis Potosi this week. Per Mark Harrison of the TIU, Souza will be allowed to keep whatever he earned from the reinstatement April 8 until the time of the forfeit.

Souza began the 2018 season on the ATP Tour, but lost in the qualifying of all the events he entered, most on the South American winter clay-court swing. By the end of the season, he was on the Futures circuit, where he won three straight tournaments to finish up the year.

He was inside the top 100 for six months, from February to Aug. 2015. That year, he earned over $320,000 and hit his career high.

But in 2016 and 2017 he grossed less than $100,000 per year and in Aug. 2017, he fell out of the top 200.

In 2018, Souza earned less than $40,000, despite playing 29 events.

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.

TIU supervisory board chair named

The Tennis Integrity Unit – we can call it the “British Tennis Integrity Unit” – has named the “independent chair” for the new supervisory board being set up to monitor it.

Jennie Price, a career sports administrator formerly the CEO of Sport England, will be the woman in charge.

Price was selected “following an extensive international search carried out by external specialists.”

The Independent Review Panel listed a new supervisory board as one of its recommendations.

The IRP released its final report last December, after nearly three years of study.

Nine people replacing four

Integrity review panel submits final report

The new supervisory board is replacing the 11-year-old Tennis Integrity Board. That was made up of ATP CEO Chris Kermode, WTA CEO Steve Simon, ITF president David Haggerty and Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook.

All of those men, we’d imagine, had many other issues on their plate.

That’s why the IRP included this observation in its report.

“The TIU has not been subject to adequate supervision or strategic direction from the Tennis Integrity Board (“TIB”), which was established by the International Governing Bodies to oversee the TIU. This has principally arisen as a consequence of the TIB’s deference to the independence of the TIU.”

Strong on sports participation

Price’s resumé lists the attracting of “1.6 million more people to participate regularly in sport” and “her leadership of the multi-award winning This Girl Can campaign which significantly increased activity among women and girls” as highlights of her time with Sport England.

A lawyer by profession, she was Chief Executive at the UK national recycling body WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). After that, she took on the Sport England job for a decade. She was private practice in the construction sector in Great Britain before that. And she also is a trustee of the Canal and River Trust.

She left Sport England last May to pursue other projects.

Price has no previous background in tennis (or, we’d imagine, sports gambling). She will preside over a nine-person board. Representatives from the WTA, ATP, ITF and the Grand Slam Board will take up four of those spots. So, essentially, the old “Tennis Integrity Board”.  

She will recruit four more “independent members” to join. The Board will “operate along the lines of a corporate board, providing strategic guidance and independent oversight of the unit.”

Gambling sponsorship still in tennis

The Sportsradar conundrum

Hopefully their first order of business is to look at the relationship between the revenue earned from selling data/scoring rights.

The issue with Sportsradar and the lowest-level ITF tournaments was one of the keynote recommendations of the IRP. The report found that some 80 per cent of the betting took place at those levels.

So that seems to be the key issue. Let’s hope that it’s something that will be resolved by having nine people in a board room instead of four.

Integrity review panel submits final report

It’s been nearly three years since the various tennis bodies got together as one (a watershed moment in itself) to fund a comprehensive review of tennis’s betting issues.

And now, the final report has finally landed.

At 113 pages, it’s not easy tennis off-season reading – to say the least.

And it comes nearly eight months after the IRP submitted an interim report, nearly 2 1/2 years into the process overall.

The purpose of that interim report seemed mainly to provide an opportunity for various tennis bodies criticized to plead their case, in their own defence.

Will the various tennis bodies will takes the panel’s recommendations to heart and make a full effort to implement them?

That’s to be determined.

Governing bodies sign off

The governing bodies of tennis (the ATP, WTA, ITF and the Slams as individual units) signed off on the report.

Notably, it took just three paragraphs for the statement to note that “the Panel has seen no evidence of any institutional corruption or cover-up by the international governing bodies or the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).”

You hope that wasn’t the group’s biggest takeaway – ensuring history wasn’t unkind. But it may well have been.

“We will now work collectively to prioritize timely implementation of the Panel’s final integrity and governance recommendations,” the statement said.

Past transgressions highlighted again

As in the interim report, the review panel found the level of action on suspicious match betting more than inadequate in the early years. That was notably so in the wake of former ATP supervisor Richard Ings’s 2005 report.

Too many cases for which leads weren’t followed. Betting accounts in the names of players and coaches. Insufficient efforts at the Slam level to investigate suspicious betting.

In the latter case, the panel attributes the neglect to inadequate structures and resources.

As well, the panel brings up a situation in 2003  “in which a player who had been under investigation retired” following a “conversation” with the ATP. 

In other words: retire, and we won’t go after you. PLEASE don’t make us go after you.

In short, the panel didn’t find the governing bodies and the Tennis Integrity did anything wrong. But it does note that there were umpteen things they didn’t do.

Successful prosecutions leap

The Tennis Integrity Unit has successfully prosecuted 59 cases since 2009.  Notably, 23 of those came since the Interim Report was published in April 2018. Which doesn’t say much for the 2009 – April 2018 period.

One criticism the panel leveled upon the TIU is that it has, incredibly, failed to hire a betting analyst.

You’d think this would be a huge priority. It is the betting companies and analysts that, most often, blow the whistly.

You’d be wrong. 

Daniele Bracciali banned for life by ITF

 The Sportradar situation

The ITF first joined forces with Sportradar, which provides live scoring data, back in 2011. The ITF extended that agreement in 2015.

So the struggle, with the interim panel’s initial recommendation to eliminate live scoring altogether at the lower levels, has been real. 

“The Panel considers that insufficient diligence was undertaken by the ITF fully to assess the potential ramifications of entering into these agreements, which increased by tens of thousands the matches that could be bet upon at the Lowest Level of the sport, before entering into them.”

Meanwhile the “Tennis Integrity Board”, established by the game’s alphabet soup to oversee the TIU, proved to be a waste of per diems. 

“The TIU has not been subject to adequate supervision or strategic direction from the Tennis Integrity Board (“TIB”), which was established by the International Governing Bodies to oversee the TIU. This has principally arisen as a consequence of the TIB’s deference to the independence of the TIU.”

The panel advocated the discontinuance of Sportradar’s live data from the low-level $15K and $25K events. The ITF derives considerable revenue from the Sportradar sponsorship. Sportradar earns significantly more because of having the contract. So the latter two begged to differ.

Thus, they found themselves at cross-purposes.

Revenue lost on source of 80% of suspicious matches

The counter-argument from those who stand to benefit from the use of the data is  that it wouldn’t stop the betting at the lower levels. Alternate sources of live data would pop up, they say.

And that would cause an “erosion in co-operation between betting operators and the TIU because betting markets for ITF events would no longer be based on official data.”

The game’s other governing bodies disagree with that assessment. But of course, they have no financial stake.

TIU catches medium fish in Nicolas Kicker

The compromise seems to be a “targeted” approach. In other words, keep the money train running, to an extent. 

The panel’s recommendation is that the live scoring data be discontinued only at the $15,000 level. In 2019, those entry-level tournaments are almost completely cut off from the rest of the tennis universe by the new structure.

But the TIU can, “on the basis of its experience (!!!??) and in cooperation with betting operators, stop the live data on “certain high risk circumstances throughout the sport.”

Take the 15Ks off the table

As well, the panel recommends imposing “targeted restrictions on the supply of official live scoring data in particular circumstances at all levels of the sport”.

It also recommends imposing “integrity-related contractual obligations on betting operators and data supply companies as a condition of the supply of official live scoring data.”

The panel feels that having the scoring data still freely available at all the other levels will solve it. It posits that the betting community would be less motivated to invest in the personnel required to set up an alternate system to scout and report scores at the $15K level.

As well, with the ITF planning to expand the distribution of $25K matches around the world, that should be enough to satisfy betting demand.

They hope.

Eliminating the 15Ks as a gambling resource would significantly reduce the workload of cases investigated by the TIU. Its study of the numbers determined that some 80 per cent of the suspicious matches occur at the $15K level.

And preserving the Sportradar revenue from its dissemination of the live scores at the $25K level of tournaments would help fund that level.

ATP, WTA and ITF restructure tennis

Sportradar extended to 2021

The biggest complication here is that the ITF’s contract with Sportsradar was extended from Jan. 2019 to the end of the 2021 season. And that, despite this review that has been ongoing since early 2016.

Why did that happen? You’d have to ask the ITF.

Its base position is that there already was betting at the lower levels before it entered into its deal with Sportsradar. So, really, Sportradar (and the revenue it generates) can’t be the problem.

The panel disagreed with the ITF’s self-serving assessment. It pointed to the spike in suspicious match alerts from 2012 on.

But that conflict of interest ties the panel’s hands in terms of recommending changes that can actually be implemented.

(Conflict of interest in tennis? You don’t say!)

“The Panel’s position is that the ITF should take such steps as it entitled to take under its contract with Sportradar to implement the recommendation to the maximum extent possible. It is a matter for the ITF to determine what steps are permissible under its contract.”

It’s kind of a problem that nearly three years into the process, after a three-year deal extension, the review panel doesn’t have a handle on this issue.

Betting sponsorships

There were concerns from some of the alphabet soup that having to pass on accepting betting sponsorships meant foregoing “an essential element of the basis on which some events are able to provide funding of prize money.”

They claimed losing that revenue might even threaten the financial viability of certain events. But the panel posits that “no evidence was submitted to support this suggestion.”

The collective written submission supported the elimination of betting sponsorships. The concerns about losing that revenue “were not raised until late in the consultation process – and then, only orally,” the final report stated.

But the panel posits that if tennis has already banned players and their teams from accepting said sponsorships, the tournaments should live by the same rules.

It also notes the ITF already has banned its events from accepting sponsorships from betting companies. It goes without saying those would be the lower-tier events that would need that revenue the most.

And so, the WTA and ATP should be able to do the same.

Rare match-fixing get on women’s side

ATP, WTA need to kick in more

The review panel realizes that the recommendations will hurt the ITF’s bottom line – “a substantial part of which is reinvested in promoting tennis at what is essentially a developmental level of the game.”

So it recommends that the other members of the alphabet soup up their contributions to help the ITF on the development side.

Other recommendations

– A new, separate, independent Tennis Integrity Unit with more oversight and a “separate legal personality”, with a CEO. (The tennis collective expects this job to be filled sometime in 2019).

– A bigger, more diverse staff.

–Increased, more secure funding.

–A more thorough and restrictive credentialing process and increased security to keep some of the bad hombres out of the player lounges.

–Measures implemented to deal with the “rampant online abuse of players.” (Good luck with that).

 –The addition of in-house betting expertise (how extra-overdue is this?) and the increased use of betting data and match footage to support the cases the TIU goes after (i.e., go beyond asking guys if they’ve been naughty or nice and hope for honesty).

10-year ban for American Nick Kryvonos

–Replacing the two-stage process (the hearing, and the potential appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport) with a single-stage process to save time and money.

Major backlog of cases

After betting alerts quadrupled in 2015 and the review panel was announced, the TIU increased its number of investigators from … two to seven. The current boss, Director of Integrity Nigel Willerton, says they need 12.

Perhaps they need more. A document dated March, 2017 showed 85 players for which the TIU still hadn’t had time to interview. In fact, in all of 2016, the TIU conducted only 80 interviews.

As of June 2018, that backlog of uninterviewed players stood at 138. 

The lack of diversity (English-only language skills in a global game, for example), continues to hamper the investigative process on every level.

As well, the TIU still lacks expertise in betting analysis, tennis expertise and “readily available” legal advice. Especially betting analysis. 

TIU opts for more transparency

Panel conclusions

After nearly three years, the only real change is that the Review Panel now has concrete numbers and charts to back up what most people already knew empirically.

Most of the betting corruption occurs at the lowest levels of the sport.

And so, the panel’s recommendations are to basically turn the page on the $15K Futures tournaments, where some 80 per cent of the suspicious matches occur. And, thus, attempt to eliminate 80 per cent of the problem – or at least, take it off their radar. Or their Sportradar (pardon the pun).

They recommend the bettors no longer get access to live scoring from those events, the rights for which are owned by Sportradar, which pays the ITF a tidy sum for them. 

Since the interim report in April, the ITF has basically thrown the entry level of the professional game into completely disarray. So many players remain quite unsure of how the changes will play out. Many wonder what the ITF was thinking. More question whether it’s even worth continuing to try to chase their dream.

As well, multiple countries have cancelled their $15,000 tournaments altogether.

ALL Futures tournaments in Canada cancelled

Or, they have had to revamp their entire competitive structure, because of the changes.

With new Transition Tour, USTA revamps

So that’s challenging.

Other than that, they need more investigators, more expertise, and more funding. Also – more cooperation and communication with betting companies and the corruption watch dogs in the individual countries.

(The TIU has added an investigator, an intelligence analyst and an education coordinator in 2018).

In other words, little that we didn’t already know.

After nearly three years and multiple millions of dollars spent, the key will be in the implementation.

Rare match-fixing get on women’s side

Most of the players the Tennis Integrity Unit nabs on match-fixing and related offences are men.

In fact, according to the list of TIU convictions, all of them.

The only woman was Ekaterina Bychkova, who was suspended for 30 days in 2010 for failing to report an approach. But Bychkova was not found to have fixed any matches.

On Wednesday, the TIU announced that Loveth Donatus of Nigeria has been suspended for two years and fined $5,000, after being found guilty on several charges.

Half the length of the ban, and the entire fine, will be suspended if she commits no further offenses.

That makes sense, as according to the WTA’s website (we know, not the most reliable these days), her official career earnings add up to $1,216. So clearly any earnings she might have managed came … off the court.

Donatus, who has never had a ranking, was found to have accepted money to lose a match against 23-year-old Abir El Fahimi of Morocco at an ITF in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in Aug. 2016.

El Fahimi played the Futures level for 4 1/2 years without much success. And she also represented Morocco in Fed Cup in the Europe-Africa Zone 3 last year.

Donatus lost 6-1, 6-4.

Quarterly Tennis Integrity Unit report

Several match-fixing offenses

The TIU’s investigation also determined Donatus failed to report an approach. And it also found that she “further attempted to persuade a fellow player to deliberately under-perform, in return for payment.”

As it happens, her country is hosting a pair of $25,000 joint ITF events last week and this week in Lagos. Donatus played both weeks; they were her first matches since last November.

Now 26, Donatus only began playing the low-level ITF tournaments in 2015. And after 11 tournaments, she had won a total of just one match.

That came last November in the first round of qualifying at a $25,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Dakar. Her opponent was M.J. Changwereza of Great Britain, 14 at the time, who was playing her first-ever match in a pro event.

(Photo from Tennis Africa Magazine)

Quarterly Tennis Integrity Unit report

After the Tennis Integrity Unit’s two-year analysis of the problems of match-fixing in tennis, the study commissioned by the sport’s major governing bodies offered plenty of recommendations.

So far, there hasn’t been much movement with the numbers.

In the third quarter of 2018, the TIU received 63 alerts of suspicious matches through its agreement with the betting industry. It’s been almost exactly that number three of the last four years, with a spike in 2016.

Of those, 37 took place at the Futures level, two at the Grand Slam level, and none on the WTA and ATP Tours.

Van Uytvanck: “Stalked day and night” by Peng

Chinese veteran Shuai Peng offered up her defence, in the wake of the Tennis Integrity Unit’s announcement of a lengthy suspension and fine after an incident at last year’s Wimbledon.

But the other player involved, Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, came out with a sharply contrasting version of events Sunday.

The TUI investigated and determined Peng offered an unnamed player she signed up to play doubles with a financial inducement to drop out of the tournament.

Ostensibly, she did this so that she could team up with another player.

It emerged that Van Uytvanck was the player approached and that Sania Mirza, with whom Peng played the remainder of the season, was her preferred option.

Not guity, Peng says

Peng, per this translation from the Chinese social media Weibo, wrote that she never coerced any player to pull out of the draw.

She blamed the situation on miscommunication between her former coach and Van Uytvanck’s (also now-former) coach.

The Chinese player said that at the time, she and Mirza “really wanted to play doubles together”. And so she and then-coach Bertrand Perret told Van Uytvanck they wanted to offer her the equivalent of first-round prize money. The idea was to compensate  for her accommodations and the schedule change.

In the end, Peng essentially said she didn’t know the rules (this, after 15 years on Tour, many of those at the top of the doubles rankings). And when she found that she and Mirza wouldn’t be able to team up together regardless, she confirmed with Van Uytvanck that they would play.

But then, the Belgian withdrew due to injury.

So her contention is that withdrawing from the doubles was Van Uytvanck’s decision, and that she and former coach Perret never gave her money to induce her to do it.

Van Uytvanck responds

Van Uytvanck’s version differs significantly. And on Sunday, she laid it out on Twitter.

What’s next

It’s entirely possible that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.

Van Uytvanck did end up qualifying for the singles, so it wasn’t as though she hadn’t already made plans to stay at least through the first part of the first week of the main draw. She lost to Ekaterina Makarova in the first round.

Peng added in her message that she would get legal advice before deciding whether or not to file an appeal.

She had half the six-month ban suspended, pending no further transgressions, and is eligible to return Nov. 8.

As for Van Uytvanck, she lost in the second round of the Rogers Cup this week to No. 15 seed Ashleigh Barty.

The No. 5 seed in the Cincinnati qualifying won the first set easily Saturday against American Jamie Loeb. But after a two-hour rain delay midway through the second set, retired down 0-3 in the third.

Peng Shuai busted by the Anti-Corruption unit

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.

Peng

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.

Argentine Heras convicted of match-fixing

Another fish has been caught out of that Challenger in Barranquilla, Colombia that netted the Tennis Integrity Unit top-100 player Nicolas Kicker.

Patricio Heras, a 29-year-old Argentine transplanted to Italy who is a viable but obscure player, was caught fixing the result of his first-round, 7-6 (6), 6-0 loss there to countryman Facundo Mena.

He also failed to report a number of approaches.

Heras is currently ranked No. 306 in singles (his high was No. 269 in 2013), and a career-best No. 323 in doubles after starting the season around No. 800.

He has never played a match at the ATP Tour level.