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Rediff.com  » Sports » Player claims match-fixing at Wimbledon

Player claims match-fixing at Wimbledon

September 27, 2007 18:52 IST

The ghost of match-fixing has come to haunt Wimbledon, the Mecca of tennis, with Belgian Gilles Elseneer's claim that he was offered 70,000 pounds to throw his first-round match against Italian Potito Starace at the 2005 Championships.

Elseneer disclosed that soon after he qualified for the singles event two years ago, he was approached "bluntly into my face" and told that he could make a hundred times more than his first-round winner's cheque for giving up the match, The Times reported on Thursday.

"They said I should take my time and give them my reply the next day, but I only needed a couple of minutes to realize it was impossible for me to contemplate," Elseneer said.

"I had my honour as a player to protect and Wimbledon meant everything to me," he was quoted as saying by the paper.

The report also gave other instances of corruption such as another Belgian, Dick Norman, a 10-year tour veteran, confessing to being approached and offered 12,500 euros at Wimbledon to turn informant on the state of health, mind and physical fitness of fellow players.

Although Norman could not recall the year, he also declined, it said.

Besides, after last year's first round victory for Richard Bloomfield, then British No 5 and ranked number 259 in the world, over Argentine Carlos Berlocq -- 170 places higher on the ATP computer -- it came to light that an extraordinary 300,000 pounds had been placed on the Betfair exchange for the Argentine to lose which he did in straight sets.

ATP chairman and president Etienne de Villiers said he was not surprised about such offers being made to players but cared about the athletes' reaction.

"I am not surprised players are being approached in sport today but what I care about is their reaction, where they stand in terms of their responsibility to the sport and what the consequences are," he said.

"It's about education, values and moral compasses. But it is a disaster for tennis if anyone considers that the sport is corruptible. Gamblers like to have information no one else has and we have to fight tooth and nail to ensure we have a level playing field.

"We have never stopped pursuing every avenue to preserve the integrity of our sport. We have very rigorous programmes. We have draconian penalties.

"We can fine a player up to 50,000 pounds for transgressing our code and impose a maximum lifetime ban if it continues. If we find anyone, be it a player, some one in their entourage, anyone, the maximum ban will be imposed. There is zero tolerance."

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