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.

Columbian player suspended under TIU

Here’s the rule, kids.

If the Tennis Integrity Unit tells you to come for an interview and surrender your mobile phone, you’d probably best do it.

Barlaham Zuluaga Gaviria begged off on the interview because of illness. He wouldn’t reschedule. He wouldn’t surrender his cell phone and when he finally did – it was a different phone. 

The result after a hearing April 29 is the 22-year-old Colombian received a three-year suspension, and a $5,000 fine

Zuluaga originally was suspended all the way back in July, 2017.

His career high of No. 1491 came as a 17-year-old, in 2003.

Tennis Integrity Unit update

The ITF’s Tennis Integrity Unit has issued its 2018 first-quarter report.

Out of 24,489 matches played from January through March, the TIU received 38 alerts of suspicious betting patterns. That’s .155% of all matches.

That compares with 30 a year ago, and 48 in 2016.

Of those 38, 23 came at the low-level Futures events, one each on the WTA and ATP Tours, and none at the Grand Slams.

There have been no corruption-related suspensions announced so far in 2018. At this time a year ago, there were seven.

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

TIU opts for more transparency

A big complaint about the Tennis Integrity Unit is the lack of transparency.

That is going to change.

The TIU announced Friday that it will publish the detailed disciplinary decisions produced by its panel of independent Anti-Corruption Hearing Officers.

Among those details: the charges, testimony, the reasons for the decision and the sanctions imposed. Some content will be redacted to protect the identities of informants.

Through September, the number of TIU match alerts for 2017 is down nearly 47 per cent from the same date a year ago. There were no alerts at the US Open.