Lukasz Kubot and Andrea Hlavackova believe their first round mixed doubles opponents David Marrero and Lara Arruabarrena were “trying 100 per cent” in their match at the Australian Open on Sunday, rejecting the match-fixing suspicions that have prompted a police investigation.
A report in the New York Times said that a sports gambling website, Pinnacle Sports, suspended betting for the match on Sunday after large amounts of money, for what is typically an obscure match, was placed on Kubot and Hlavackova to win. The company notified Victoria police of possible irregularities.
Spanish duo Marrero and Arrubarrena lost the match 6-0, 6-3. The one-sidedness of the betting raised red flags at Pinnacle Sports over possible match-fixing, which prompted the company to suspend betting for the encounter around 13 hours before it started.
Both Spaniards denied any match-fixing and Marrero blamed his poor performance on a knee injury.
Suspicious betting information is not considered evidence for match-fixing but the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) – tennis’ internal watchdog – has started an investigation, with both Kubot and Hlavackova confirming they were questioned about the matter.
They would not reveal any details of their conversations with the TIU, which were strictly confidential but they insist they believe their opponents were trying their best.
“Yes, they were trying 100 per cent. We were trying our best, we won the match, I don’t know why many people are here,” Kubot told a packed small interview room at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Asked whether he sensed if Marrero was injured, Kubot added: “To be honest we were so focused on our game that I didn’t even notice if he was injured, or that she was injured. We were just focused on ourselves and we were trying to get our momentum. As you could see there were many no-ad points, which we won in the end. Let’s say in the first set we were very lucky, but that’s how it happened.”
The match-fixing suspicions have come hot on the heels of allegations raised in a report published last week by BuzzFeed and BBC that claimed gambling corruption was widespread in tennis and that several top-50 players were flagged to the tennis authorities and that they took no action.
Hlavackova, owner of three grand slam doubles and mixed doubles titles, admitted it was uncomfortable having to answer questions regarding the match with the Spaniards.
“It’s nothing very comfortable to think that we didn’t win the match on our terms. We played our best yesterday, we did very well and we won. So it’s a bit uncomfortable to be questioned if someone else wasn’t playing 100 per cent or something,” said the Czech Olympic silver medallist.
A list of players was published following the BuzzFeed/BBC report by an unknown website that claimed they used a mathematical algorithm to figure out the suspected players.
“I think the name should not be put on a list in a newspaper without any proof because I think you work hard every day, as everyone of us, and this is just putting us, let’s say, on a blacklist but without any proof. I think that should not be written in the paper,” said Kubot.
“To be honest, as someone who idolises Lleyton Hewitt, I’m really sad that it happened, his name, right here in his favourite grand slam but maybe it should be like this, I don’t know, it’s not my business.”
Spanish No.1 David Ferrer finds it “impossible” that either Marrero or Arruabarrena could be involved with gambling corruption.
“They were just trying to win a match. It is impossible that David or Lara have bet (fixed) a match. In this particular moment this is a touchy subject. The media is being sensationalist,” Ferrer said on Monday after reaching the quarter-finals in Melbourne.
Referring to the New York Times article, Ferrer added: “It sells. It’s looking for more than there really is. If you find someone who is betting (fixing matches) then sanction them. The truth is I feel no pity for those tennis players.
“But if you don’t know (and have no proof), then don’t call them dirty and don’t taint tennis.”
Canada’s Milos Raonic fought off a comeback by 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in a tense five-setter before taking a major scalp and reaching his second straight Australian Open quarter-final on Monday.
Raonic, who earlier spoke of his grief over a high school shooting in his home country, eliminated the Swiss world number four 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3 and will face Gael Monfils in the quarters.
The 13th seed, who beat Wawrinka’s fellow Swiss Roger Federer to win this month’s Brisbane International, remains unbeaten this year after his impressive victory in three hours 44 minutes.
Stan Wawrinka in #AusOpen 31-10 (76%) 10 losses 2 Djokovic 1 D Nalbandian R Nadal M Gicquel T Berdych M Cilic R Federer N Almagro M Raonic— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) January 25, 2016
It was Raonic’s first win against the reigning French Open champion in five meetings, and he has not lost a match at tour level since going down to Rafael Nadal in the third round of last year’s Shanghai Masters.
Raonic, looking to take his game to another level under new coach Carlos Moya, was on track for a straight-sets win after four service breaks to lead by two sets in 76 minutes.
But Wawrinka lifted his intensity and took the match to a fifth set.
“It is more about what always comes down to me, trying to play in my rhythm, dictate and control the centre of the court and I thought like I was able to carry that through today,” Raonic said.
“It’s the next step for me to try and achieve the goals I want to achieve and I am always looking at ways to get better and I am always working for that.”
The match turned in the third set when Wawrinka broke Raonic’s serve in the 11th game and served out to keep the encounter alive.
Raonic started missing more and Wawrinka picked up his serving percentage, and he broke the Canadian in the fifth game of the fourth set and fought off four break points on his serve in the eighth game.
Wawrinka steamed to triple set point in the 10th game and took the match into a fifth set with the momentum shifting his way.
But in the final set, Wawrinka lost serve in a shaky sixth game when on second break point his forehand drive was just out, giving Raonic a 4-2 lead.
Wawrinka saved a match point in the eighth game but Raonic brought up a further three match points and finally won it with a put-away at the net.
Raonic, who dedicated his third-round win over Viktor Troicki to victims of last week’s school shooting which left four dead, has yet to beat shotmaker Monfils in their two meetings so far.
Tim Henman believes allegations of match-fixing in tennis have damaged the sport and he says lifetime bans should be handed out to anyone found guilty of the crime.
The former world no.4, who is working as an ambassador for HSBC during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the UAE, told Sport360: “It’s been a bad week for the sport. Match-fixing needs to be dealt with in the most severe way as possible, with lifetime bans, because it’s a crime in any sport and it’s got no place in tennis at all.”