author: william   27 March 2020Print page

How are tennis matches getting fixed?

Corruption is one of the biggest threats that modern sport is currently facing. It became so big that the whole organizations started dealing with match-fixing and one of the best ways to do it is through tennis.

match-fixing in tennis
A bad day or maybe something more than that?Why tennis?How do tennis matches get fixed?Are all the matches fixed?
A bad day or maybe something more than that?

How many times have you seen your player messing up a serve after serve and losing the match against an underdog? How many times have you seen a definite favourite losing the first set and then easily blowing past the opponent in the following sets, booking him/herself a spot in the next round? It is a nature of the sport - one would say. Maybe. Tennis is very unpredictable - others would add. Yes, it might be. Maybe it was just a bad day?

The life, especially when you’re a punter, has already shown us that whenever something weird is going down, money is usually involved. We are talking about really BIG money here. That is why the temptation is constantly growing, and more people are trying to get even a small piece of it, without sweating yourself out during practices.

Tennis appears to be very suitable for potential match-fixing. We would have to show you some inside information in order for you to get a better understanding of the whole situation.
Why tennis?

First of all, tennis players are starting their «professional» careers at a very young age. For example, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have started doing tennis since they were 18.

Second of all, tennis has always been considered an elite and luxury sport or simply saying quite an expensive one. Not every parent can afford to sponsor their child’s tennis practices, which is why we do not see that many tennis players compared to football, for example. Frankly saying, it costs a lot of time and money to make a professional tennis player.

So how can you return the invested money and time? The general answer would be «by winning games» or «by becoming a champion». That is definitely one way to do it. Many people do not consider the fact that it is quite hard to make a living out of just playing tennis, and only a few make it. The rest just wanders around the world like a travelling circus in pursuits of money and fame. Well, mainly money but those closer than they think.

Many of you imagine Rafael Nadal celebrating another triumph or Simone Halep breaking out into tears after winning another Grand Slam tournament. Yes, that is definitely the way to picture that, however, we had a chance to see it all from another perspective, which is not quite as fascinating.

80% of the players are living on the edge of survival. What does it exactly mean? It means that while they keep going from one tournament to another, the money they make is barely enough to cover all the travel, accommodation and other costs. Sometimes dropping out in the first round of the tournament held in Arabic countries and giving private tennis classes to sheikhs’ kids in the meanwhile, pays out more for lower-ranked players. An hour of such a private class can cost even $100, while a several-day-long tournament win, like for example the one from Futures series, will earn you around a thousand dollars. You do the math. However, that is not the worst that can happen.

Let’s go back to the earnings of the lower-ranked player, which generally are barely covering all the expenses. Hopefully, a generous sponsor will pay a visit to a young player one day, offering him/her money to support his/her career. Well, nothing comes free in this life and tennis is definitely not an exception. Most of the time, this generous sponsor has mafia ties, and by offering you a once-in-a-lifetime chance might one day ask you for a small favour.
How do tennis matches get fixed?

So, let’s talk about the actual fixing. How is it being done? When it comes to tennis, the situation is straightforward. It is not football where you have to bribe a couple of players to make things happen. The variety of tennis betting options is so long that the player does not even have to lose the whole match. It would be enough to just give up a couple of games or a set or produce a double fault. Those of you who have ever held a tennis racket in your hands know how easy it is to control the game when having a substantial skill advantage.

There is also a common practice of an envoy being present at the game and constantly reporting what is going on to his/her supervisors while giving a player instructions via some special signs.

How many times have we witnessed a situation when a player was doing something really awkward but still playing to the very last second of the match. Why? The reason is that in order for the bookmaker not to void a bet, the event has to finish in a proper way.
An interesting fact about the hotels. Many low-ranked players are usually sharing a hotel room in order to save a couple of dollars while at the tournament. That is why when one of them gets eliminated and packs up to leave the following day, it is really likely that the other one will try to throw the game and also leave so he/she won’t pay extra for the remaining days. Experienced old-school punters are always trying to check something like this to have an extra piece of information.

Another thing is doubles. While players are still valuing their solo careers, which directly corresponds to their points, ranking and money, the double matches are a true heaven for fixing. The vast majority of players do not really care about such matches and quite often opt-in to match-fixing techniques.

Let’s not forget about one important thing, which is the one we have already mentioned - hotel room sharing. The number of players and tournaments is limited, which helps players build certain relationships with each other after a couple of seasons. Coming from that, just imagine travelling the world with your friends, staying in the best hotels and eating in the best restaurants and all you have to do is put on some shorts for an hour or two a day and play tennis again the person you partied with last night. If you are not very ambitious and being ranked in the ATP’s top 10 is not what you are pursuing, then would it really hurt if you just scoop up a ton of money just by missing two serves here and there?

Unfortunately, professional tennis careers do not last forever, but you still have to make a living out of something. That is exactly why many players make radical decisions to a bit further than just giving up a set or two. It often happens that it pays off way more to get eliminated in the very first round against some amateur than trying to win the whole tournament. Even more desperate players team up and all together get eliminated in the first round doubling, tripling or even quadrupling their possible payouts at the bookmaker.
Are all the matches fixed?

Let’s just to make it sound less pessimistic for those of you who still believe in a fair play and the true nature of the sport. Are all the matches getting fixed? Of course not! According to the Tennis Integrity Unit report, barely 5% of all the tennis matches are subject to possible corruption activity. It is easy to estimate that Wimbledon matches will have only a 0.1% chance of corrupted matches, while those from the Futures series would have a substantially higher percentage. 

Okay, so why does the International Tennis Federation (ITF) do nothing about this? Well, they perfectly know that tennis will quickly become an unpopular niche sport without bookmakers and their money. That is why every now and then we get reports pointing out at some scapegoats that are usually low-ranked players, who will not be missed and who cannot afford a decent lawyer.

What about the bookmakers? Are they doing anything to prevent match-fixing and therefore facing loses? Top online bookmakers are no rookies to this and have certain mechanisms to prevent such fraudulent activity. The situation looks quite different for land-based operators. They simply do not take bets on low-ranked tournaments and require placing a multiple bet with at least three selections on it, which in some way helps them to eliminate the risk of huge payouts.
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