Betting worth billions. Elite players. Violent threats. Covert messages with Sicilian gamblers. And suspicious matches at Wimbledon. Leaked files expose match-fixing evidence that tennis authorities have kept secret for years.
Secret files exposing evidence of widespread match-fixing by players at the upper level of world tennis can today be revealed by BuzzFeed News and the BBC.
The sport’s governing bodies have been warned repeatedly about a core group of 16 players – all of whom have ranked in the top 50 – but none have faced any sanctions and more than half of them will begin playing at the Australian Open on Monday.
It has been seven years since world tennis authorities were first handed compelling evidence about a network of players suspected of fixing matches at major tournaments including Wimbledon following a landmark investigation, but all of them have been allowed to continue playing.
The investigation into men’s tennis by BuzzFeed News and the BBC is based on a cache of leaked documents from inside the sport – the Fixing Files – as well as an original analysis of the betting activity on 26,000 matches and interviews across three continents with gambling and match-fixing experts, tennis officials, and players.
The files contain detailed evidence of suspected match-fixing orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy, which was uncovered in the landmark 2008 probe, and which authorities subsequently shelved. “They could have got rid of a network of players that would have almost completely cleared the sport up,” said Mark Phillips, one of the investigators. “We gave them everything tied up with a nice pink bow on top and they took no action at all.”
BuzzFeed News began its investigation after devising an algorithm to analyse gambling on professional tennis matches over the past seven years. It identified 15 players who regularly lost matches in which heavily lopsided betting appeared to substantially shift the odds – a red flag for possible match-fixing.