Player Websites: Another Avenue for Match Fixing
In the aftermath of the Davydenko/Sopot gambling investigation, I wasn’t surprised to see a story about match fixing in tennis involving Russians. I was, however, amazed to see it so starkly laid out in print. A Wall Street Journal story published yesterday details the efforts of a 25-year-old Russian father of two who admits trying to rig WTA Tour matches. According to the piece, Dmitry Avilov makes a modest living betting entirely on tennis matches. He admits at one point to soliciting the Russian player Ekaterina Bychkova to throw a match – to no avail.
This kind of story must send shivers down the collective spine of authorities working to keep the game clean. It shows how vulnerable an individual, far-flung sport like tennis is to the corruptive forces of match fixing, especially with lower ranked players like No. 169 Bychkova. (What Avilov has to gain from making this admission to a reporter I have no idea, but kudos to Hannah Karp for teasing it out of him).
A WTA spokesman told me that Avilov would, of course, be barred from any tournaments. But as the story reports, he can just as easily contact players through their individual websites or other venues – another potential breach in the ongoing battle against gambling. “Mr. Avilov says he ‘definitely’ intends to contact other players through online social-networking sites and if the opportunity presents itself, to ask them to fix matches,’” the story concludes. “‘My job is to understand these girls and to think like them.’”