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Breaking News. . .Sopot 08/03/2007 - 3:01 PM

The reports coming out of Poland and London concerning irregular betting patterns on a match involving a TW favorite, Nikolay "Kolya the Obscure" Davydenko are somewhat disturbing. A stat in one of the comments at the Fox site (wait until you get a load of those!) caught my eye. The poster wrote:
In todays Vasallo match he (Davydenko)  was leading 6-2 4-1 [note that Davydenko lost the set, 6-3, so this cannot be accurate; hat tip to Comment poster Sophie for that catch. But I am allowing it to stand, because I assume it was just a typo - PB] and was traded at 1.8 (means 55% winning probability) normal would be 1.2 (83%) That means he was traded 4 times higher than usual and he lost the game from that point on! Fixer

The other disturbing thing here is that it was a second-round match in Sopot, not a Wimbledon quarterfinal, yet it attracted $7 million in betting action - roughly ten times what is usually bet on a this kind of match. My guess is that there is some kind of story here, for sure. But just what kind, I'm not sure.

The most interesting element in this story grows out of a hypothetical: What if somehow the match was fixed? Just how would the ATP, Betfair - or anyone else - establish that, short of someone with insider knowledge approaching them. Think about it. The ATP and/or Betfair will say they are "investigating." But how, exactly, does the ATP investigate something like this?

My guess: they interview the principal and, unless one of them,for some reason, hands the ATP a smoking gun, the case is immedaitely closed. The only meaningful investigation would seem to be one that followed the money, but the ATP isn't the FBI or CIA - or a deep-pocketed entity like the NFL. And I doubt that Betfair would plow significant resources into a comprehensive investigation - mainly because it has the right to suspend and terminate betting, and even renege on payouts. So the only cost to Betfair has been the commissions it would have collected. It isn't like the firm had to swallow a huge hit by paying out to winners of a fixed match.

So who would really be motivated, or sufficiently flush, to conduct and finance the kind of full-blown investigation that might actually make potential match-throwers fear reprisals?

Here's a chilling bit added to the Associated Press feed on this story:

Allegations of match-fixing in tennis have cropped up in the past.

In 2003, bookmakers reportedly suspended betting six hours before Russian player Yevgeny Kafelnikov's match in Lyon, France, against Fernando Vicente after a big wager was placed on the Spaniard. Vicente, who had been winless for several months, won in straight sets. There was no suggestion either player was involved in wrongdoing, and no investigation was made by the ATP.

Several Russian tennis players were photographed a few years ago with Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a suspected mobster from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan who was accused of fixing the pairs and ice dancing events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Photographs of Tokhtakhounov with Kafelnikov, Marat Safin and Andrei Medvedev were taken off Medvedev's Web site in 2002 after the man's arrest. Tokhtakhounov spent nearly a year in a Venice, Italy, prison but escaped extradition to the United States in 2003 on the Olympic rigging charges.

I don't know much about this gambling netherworld. The whole thing creeps me out.

PS - update as of 4:06 PM. this BBC story  has Betfair officials saying that after Davydenko won the first set, his price "drifted out, not in", which is unusual because you would think it would be the opposite when the World No. 4 is hammering on some journeyman. So it seems entirely possible that people who picked up on Davydenko being hurt (as Vasallo did, according to his own admission in the Fox story) early in the match flooded the betting site, taking a calculated gamble on Kolya NOT being able to finish or win the match.


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Posted by prince49 08/03/2007 at 03:14 PM

this is really scary .. just what tennis did not need with the US Open series rolling along ..

Posted by CM 08/03/2007 at 03:22 PM

Something definitely seems amiss, doesn't it?

Posted by Alista 08/03/2007 at 03:25 PM

"Something definitely seems amiss, doesn't it?"


Posted by temes 08/03/2007 at 03:32 PM

Kolya the Obscure.

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 03:34 PM

I posted a couple of items on this topic on the "Crisis Center" thread; I'm reposting the portions that don't duplicate what's now in Pete's article:

1)... This sounds similar to the situtation in the Bloomfield-Berlocq match which was investigated a couple of years ago. However, in that case, I think the bookmakers did eventually pay out.
In the Bloomfield-Berlocq match, heavy last-minute betting against the favorite was supposedly linked to a phone call from the players' hotel just before the match, with the implication that the call conveyed inside information about an injury to the favorite. (It was a match between two low-ranked players which ordinarily wouldn't have attracted much betting interest at all.)It doesn't sound as if there is any such "smoking gun" in the Davydenko match(or at least none that has been made public).

2)Update on the Davydenko story: some details from the Kings of Clay site ( )...
...Someone edited the Davydenko biography on Wikipedia with spoof material charging him with match-fixing since childhood. (It seems there's a lot of that sort of spoofing going on the last couple of days...)The material has now been deleted and Wikipedia has locked the entry against further editing for a couple of days. If you want to see the spoof material, it's quoted on the Kings of Clay thread called "Davydenko: a Model of Moderate Consistency," I won't quote it here for fear someone might take it seriously and pass it on like the Federer spoof.
Please note I am not saying that Davydenko fixed the match! The issue seems to be whether someone else was spreading inside information

Posted by jb 08/03/2007 at 03:45 PM

interesting - if kolya was injured - and someone knew and bet against him.

'cause i gotta say - ordinarily I would have bet on him to win that match. Kolya is a bit of an iron man, no?

gawd, thinking of the furor re: the implication of 'tanking', match fixing mite actually melt down the internet. if it twere possible.

Posted by Masala 08/03/2007 at 03:52 PM

Does Kolya = Tim Donaghy of ATP? Probably not but it is curious that his compatriot, Y-man, was in the same circumstance in 2003. Will Etienne release a statement a la David Stern?

Posted by sophie 08/03/2007 at 03:53 PM

"Davydenko was leading 6-2 4-1" - curious, seeing he lost the second set 3-6 :)

Posted by DMS 08/03/2007 at 03:56 PM

Now this is a story I wish were in that sophomoric Slate article we talked about ad nauseum yesterday...this ain't good.

Posted by Veruca Salt (Deluxe Edition) 08/03/2007 at 04:01 PM

In the Bloomfield-Berlocq match, heavy last-minute betting against the favorite was supposedly linked to a phone call from the players' hotel just before the match, with the implication that the call conveyed inside information about an injury to the favorite.
That's what I think happened. Somehow news of Daveydenko's bad foot got out the bets reflected that. I'm not too familiar with sports gambling so is that really bad? Doesn't stuff like this happen with baseball, basketball, and football? Isn't that why they have injury reports?

Posted by Jane 08/03/2007 at 04:01 PM

Do we know what the _timing_ of the betting volume was? Meaning was most of the $7m placed before the match began, or midway? Although I don't know betting and therefore don't know some of the vocabulary, I have to assume from the comment that at 6-2 4-1 he was traded at 1.55 (much lower than you'd expect) suggests that the betting volume was especially high even at that stage of the match, not just beforehand?

It occurs to me that if Davydenko were involved, he wouldn't have allowed himself to get up so far in the first place. If one were going to throw your own match and wanted to dispel suspicion from that fact, you'd hardly go out on a tear and then retire when you were up. Although a thinking cheat could use that reasoning to do exactly that, my gut reaction is that he wasn't involved.

So then who could know before the fact (or mid-way during the match before it was called), that he was ailing? In a sense it's the timing mid-match that matters. If an insider let on that his foot was bothering him, they'd know that from him _before_ the match, but wouldn't have access to additional information mid-match. If that were the information betters were acting on, you'd expect the high volume placed on Kolya losing to _drop_ over the course of the match as he proceeded to win the first set so easily, despite the insider information they were acting on.

So if we assume that Kolya didn't throw the match, who could KNOW that a second injury was cropping up (or the extent of it)? Did anyone here see the match? How long before the retirement did he show any signs of the injury? And how long after the first meeting with a trainer did he retire? One possibility is that the leak of information (if there was a huge spike in betting volume mid-match) came from the trainer or someone the trainer interacted with after the time out?

At the same time, I feel uncomfortable pointing fingers in any direction. I am curious, though, of the timing/volume of the betting that occurred.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 08/03/2007 at 04:03 PM

There are several possibilities here, but one that I cannot entertain is that Davy purposely threw the match. Surely someone of his skill can lose a match without having to retire -- if his goal was to lose and no one notice he certainly picked the wrong way to do it.

Possibilities that make more sense to me include someone in his entourage tipping off the Russian mob to his injury, or something of that sort (of course I have no knowledge of this and am not suggesting that I do). Or simply his recent track record post-Wimby makes him a very poor bet indeed. If there are astute tennis bettors out there, I suppose you could make some money betting on the sport.

Hail, I would take almost anyone over Safin at this point.

The answer for me lies in understanding exactly who is betting on this type of low-level tennis match. Who are the bettors? Even the normal pot for such a match ($700K)strikes me as unreasonably high -- who the heck are these people?

Tennis, like boxing, is uniquely suited to match-fixing, for the reasons you identify. I would argue it's even better suited. Short of a confession, who's the wiser? Upsets happen at every tournament, nearly every day.

But Pete -- given the utter lack of public understanding of the world of big-money betting on tennis, isn't this the perfect subject of an investigatory piece?

Get your notepad and hit the pavement, just like in the old days (or just assign it out)....

Posted by Pete 08/03/2007 at 04:13 PM

Thanks Sophie, I just posted a note to that effect, although I think the guy just hit the wrong key on his keyboard.I don't think the error affects the point the poster was making. I also added this PS to the post:

PS - update as of 4:06 PM. this BBC story has Betfair officials saying that after Davydenko won the first set, his price "drifted out, not in", which is unusual because you would think it would be the opposite when the World No. 4 is hammering on some journeyman. So it seems entirely possible that people who picked up on Davydenko being hurt (as Vasallo did, according to his own admission in the Fox story) early in the match flooded the betting site, taking a calculated gamble on Kolya NOT being able to finish or win the match.

Posted by Jane 08/03/2007 at 04:17 PM

Did Vasallo say _when_ he noticed it? First set or second?

Posted by Pete 08/03/2007 at 04:17 PM

Todd - the last guy I know who messed around with the Russian mob in the course of investigating a potential sports fix started getting telephone calls in the middle of the night from an undisclosed location in Brighton Beach. No thanks. While I mean that seriously, and won't disclose the name of the colleague for the obvious reasons, I do think there is a piece in here somewhere and even better, a TW research project. We pick one of our most astute posters and give him $100 bucks to bet on tennis, and see what he does with it over the course of 12 months. My only problem with the idea is that, like i said in the post, betting (unless it's on horses) creeps me out.

Posted by Jenn 08/03/2007 at 04:18 PM

I have much of the same questions as Todd and In Charge. I was astounded that there would even be close to $1 million in action on a Davydenko early round match in a small tournament. What countries have the most gambling action on tennis? Obviously in Vegas there is very rarely a published tennis line (typically only for finals of GS), and then I wonder how much action they get. I regularly bet on sports in Vegas and I have never considered betting on tennis because it is just not a big betting sport there.

We need a bit more explanation here. Is there a rolling line so that at any point in the match you can still bet win/loss?

I could see a member of a player's family or entourage having gotten themselves into trouble with the mob and being so desperate, they would start tipping them off.

Posted by MrsSanta 08/03/2007 at 04:20 PM

I realised I have completely lost perspective when my initial reaction to this news is what does this mean for La Vie du Ptenisnet.

The most surprising part of the article was learning that $700K worth of bets on a second round match at Sopot is normal. How big is sports betting? What's the size of betting pool for the Wimby finals for example?

Rosangel I know you do a bit a sports betting perhaps you could enlighten me.

Posted by MrsSanta 08/03/2007 at 04:27 PM

TAiC beat me to the question.

"the last guy I know who messed around with the Russian mob in the course of investigating a potential sports fix started getting telephone calls in the middle of the night from an undisclosed location in Brighton Beach"

This sounds like a chapter in the Russian Debutante's Handbook. Maybe you could cover the betting portion that's not connected to the mob?

Posted by Todd and in Charge 08/03/2007 at 04:30 PM

Pete, we love you too much, so send Tignor (just kidding).

PBS' Frontline did a piece on the Russian mob's infiltration of NHL hockey, excerpts here:

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 04:51 PM

Re amount of money bet on early rounds of a small tournament: The Kings of Clay site which I quoted earlier said that $7 had been bet on the Davydenko match compared to $2 million on Robredo-Darcis at the same point of the match. Apparently no one thought it odd that $2 million would be bet on another early-round match involving a top player vs. a journeyman.
From what I have read in the past, much of this money is not bet on "who will win the match?" but on other questions such as "who will win the next point?". Check the Betfair website for all the weird things you can bet on in tennis (at least if you don't live in the U.S.)

Posted by Jenn 08/03/2007 at 04:56 PM

That's really facscinating, jhurwi. I had no idea that there would be anywhere close to that kind of money in play on an early round match involving non-marquee players in a small tournament. Imagine how much must have been on the line for the RG or Wimbledon finals!

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 04:59 PM

I know nothing at all about sports betting, what are the rules on "inside information"? I didn't realize it was like the stock market or something, if you find out a player is hurt why isn't it fair game? I mean I'm not being difficult but like, to trainers and ballboys and masseuses and junk sign some kind of confidentiality agreement that if a player is hurtin for certain they can't tell anyone? during the Nole/Nanner match at Wimby this year Johnny Mac and all the commentators kept talking about how Nole was nearly incapacitated in the locker room before the match, so were they revealing inside information? And where's the line between, say, noticing for the past couple of tourneys that a certain player has been having shoulder trouble and actually knowing before a match that her shoulder is really messed up?

Yeah on bwin you can (well, if you're not in the US) bet on some crazy stuff, like how many breaks each player will get and who will be the first to 10 winners or whatever. Man my national residence is saving me from myself.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 05:03 PM

Note that this match is far from an anomaly. Irregular betting patterns were also seen in the Davydenko-Schukin Barcelona match, as well as recent matches involving Filippo Volandri. The Betfair tennis forum makes for an interesting, if depressing, read.

I realize people don't want to believe there is something seriously wrong here, but the evidence is rather damning. The odds drifted significantly in Arguello's favor even before the match started, but the weirdest thing is that this continued happening even after the first set. It's one thing to know that a player is carrying an injury, it's another to bet millions on him losing even after he's won the first set, and turns out to be fit enough to compete in the second. Especially when he's the world No.4.

Of course we don't know enough as of now, but IF a player decided to fix a match, there isn't really much of a deterrent. For one, match-fixing is very hard to prove, and he's going to be given the benefit of the doubt (except by those sleazy folks who bet on tennis matches). Secondly, there's no organization that has both the responsibility and the resources to carry out a serious investigation. So, just as in the doping cases from a few years back, the sensible thing would be to hush the matter and hope things sort themselves out...

Posted by Heidi 08/03/2007 at 05:06 PM

This is just an odd story. My understanding is that like stock trading, betting sometimes goes crazy based on weird rumors, but what looks suspicious to me is the weirdly high volume. Who knows? I agree that there is no reason to suspect the players with just a couple of strange observations. But it's not bad to keep an eye out for this kind of thing; with single players, tennis is statistically more suspect when it comes to fixing than a team sport where multiple players need to be paid off (right?).

Posted by Sam 08/03/2007 at 05:36 PM

jhurwi: Thanks for the information. Like Jenn, I had no idea that this much money would be involved for this sort of venue.

*goes back to sticking head in the sand regarding this issue*

Posted by vanfan 08/03/2007 at 05:37 PM

If Davydenko did in fact fix the outcome of the match it is very possible that he felt threatened or feared for the safety of his family and friends in Russia. Let us not make judgements.

Posted by patrick 08/03/2007 at 05:38 PM

Why do we have to deal with a scandal in tennis at the moment? I was thinking that tennis had it good with baseball, basketball, football, and Tour of France was having its problems. Now the USO Series may be marred by this Kolya match scandal.

Posted by kiwibee 08/03/2007 at 05:50 PM

Oh god,what a horrible story.I hope it wasn't true about Kolya cuz he is sooooo well liked.....

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 08/03/2007 at 05:53 PM

Well, the landmine of course, is as follows: the logical connection between: (i) the fact that the ATP only counts the "best 18" tournament results; (ii) the fact that non-Slams and non-masters series events routinely pay either direct appearance fees or indirect marketing fees to attract players to tournaments in the "19+" category, and (iii) the discrepancy between the size of those appearance fees and the actual prize money offerered, not to mention the obvious discrepancy that there would be if millions of dollars could be made off of a match where the players were playing for a difference of 2,930 euros.

The scandal would be sort of the reverse of the Tour de France, rather than revealing a sport where competitors will do anything to win, it reveals a sport where fans and sponsors are being taken for a ride by players who could care less.

I would find it hard to believe that Davydenko would risk his entire career on something like this, and for that matter his entire future in the tennis establishment, so frankly I would say at the moment I would find it hard to believe he was involved on common sense alone.

Under duress, or if this is a leak from someone with inside knowledge of an injury, perhaps.

Posted by Sherlock 08/03/2007 at 06:02 PM

Can't Matt Damon just go in and take out all the Russian mob guys?

Sorry, I need some levity. This issue makes my head hurt.

Is it common to allow betting mid-match/game in sports? I've never heard of that, but I'm an admitted sports gambling neophyte.

Posted by tennisesq. 08/03/2007 at 06:05 PM

I give Davy the benefit of the doubt. I can't imagine he would jeopordize his enitre career over something like this.

Posted by P. 08/03/2007 at 06:09 PM

I know that there are many, many stories out there of people fixing matches who, when caught, claim (truthfully or not) that their family was threatened. Even if you decide not to go along with it, it'd still be pretty hard to play your best under those circumstances -- and then it becomes a very difficult situation for courts/tribunals to judge.

Think of Wimbledon 1983, where Andrea Jaeger lost 6-0, 6-3 to Navratilova the morning after Martina had done her a great kindness (taken her in after AJ had had a huge fight with her father). If you can't play good tennis in a situation like that...

Posted by P. 08/03/2007 at 06:10 PM

"many, many stories out there of people fixing matches"

Just to be clear, I meant in other sports, not tennis.

Posted by Snoo Boo Hoo 08/03/2007 at 06:18 PM

Maybe that night in Sopot, Edouard came down to his dressing room and said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Vassallo Arguello."

Oy Kolya, all you get is a one-way ticket to Palookaville!

forrealz, man, I hope he gets vindicated with extreme prejudice, or something. Although if he has been taking dives, maybe he's been the true world #1 all along.


Posted by Pierre Des Joachims 08/03/2007 at 06:19 PM

OK, call me unimaginative, but how about instead of thinking that the match-fixing was involved, maybe he lost because of a pre-exisiting foot injury, and the bettors knew about it?

This is his quote after the match: "Since the beginning of Monday I've had a problem with my left toes. Today that became a problem with my foot and now I have two problems in the one area.

"So it was impossible for me on clay because you need to do a lot of running. In the second set it was very painful and I couldn't run the way I normally do. "

He actually retired during the match, which would be a funny way to throw a match.

Posted by kiwibee 08/03/2007 at 06:20 PM

Sherlock: It should be Bourne who goes and take out those mob guys. Matt Damon is way too cute to get punched in the

Posted by Pierre Des Joachims 08/03/2007 at 06:22 PM

And I am not sure but it sounded like the betting had changed during the match? That could also be explained, according to the quote from Arguello:

""In the first set I saw him playing very well, but the match changed completely when he started to feel pain. I was lucky to play against him on one foot."

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 06:31 PM

how, in general, does the gambling industry, or whatever it is, the betting houses, expect a player's health to be kept a huge secret from the betting public? Like, if a player is sick or hurt before the match, don't like, potentially dozens of people know about it? I mean, if a horse has had (ok, what do I know about horses?) um, a blister problem, or a midnight snack at taco bell, or marital difficulties, and a few of the horse's acquaintances or colleagues know about it, does that mean all bets are off?

It's nice of vassallo arguello to stick up for him so emphatically, although I guess the alternative would be to say "of course he took a dive! how else could I have beaten him? I suck!"

This entire episode has thrown me into grammatical crisis.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 06:33 PM

Yeah, sure, he had an injury. It still remains to explain (a) the unnaturally high volume (b) the fact that the odds didn't shift in Davydenko's favor even after he won the first set. This indicates, not strong belief in the potential outcome, but certainty.

Anyway, as I said before, the issue is discussed at great length in the Betfair forum. These are people to whom the reality of the situation matters, they literally can't afford escapism. It's kind of ironic that the more you care about the game, the more likely you're going to be in denial...

I don't know if Davydenko did anything wrong. What frustrates me is we're never going to get to the bottom of this. We're going to move on pretending that it's all hunky-dory. I've seen in the context of another sport, namely cricket, what happens when that attitude is taken. Not pretty.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 06:37 PM

Man I am like so depressed. The last athlete I defended rabidly was Ben Johnson. Not that I think K2O is even in the same zipcode.

I ddaresay that Kolya would have found a better way to fix the match than to injure himself.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 06:42 PM

if he was involved, I hope he writes a book about it, and they make a movie about it. cuz it would be interesting. And probably I would cry.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 06:48 PM

All Bets Off: The Nikolai Davydenko Story.

Posted by Sherlock 08/03/2007 at 06:51 PM

Snoo, after your 6:31, I'll never watch a horse race the same way again. :) The midnight run for the border on Derby Eve!

Hang in there, Ptenisnet. Hopefully, it's all much ado about nothing. Or too much ado about something. Or Freddy Adu about anything. I don't know. Either way, I can't see Kolya being involved.

Posted by svelterogue 08/03/2007 at 06:59 PM

ah ptenisnet --- your wit kills!

Posted by Sher 08/03/2007 at 07:16 PM

We don't actually know there was cheating involved, btw. There's just suspicion, since too many people bet. But I've seen matches where it was obvious to me that the player was injured even while the commentators were saying nothing and I desperately wanted to go online and bet (thankfully i never opened any accounts beforehand, so) and would have won.

I find it a little disturbing that Betfair can just "suspend" winnings without any proof of wrongdoing. Too bad for those legitemate winners!

Posted by jb 08/03/2007 at 07:18 PM

i dunno. as in literally, i dunno. betting does obviously occur - people will bet on the damndest? (is that a word?) things. Personally, i have a bet on the end of the last harry potter book. (I won. Preens briefly)

However. The betting changing, I can see that. But I may be a pie eyed optimist, but I don't see Kolya thinking aha, i can throw this match. I can however, see the information about his physical issues being diseminated. (also can't spell that!)

I guess I chose to think this is what it is on the surface w/ kolya. He was hurt, couldn't finish and there you go. The betting is beyond my ken. But I can see rumours afly about an injury - and there you go.

But kolya - I think is what he is. So i remain a KTNSO fan.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 07:19 PM

"Too bad for those legitimate winners!"

Yeah, too bad.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 07:25 PM

Won't somebody please think of the gamblers?!?

Pete's caption on the pic is "Fixer." Meeeowwww!

Posted by svelterogue 08/03/2007 at 07:30 PM

the possibilities for so many conspiracy theories makes my mind reel. please, just please, not kolya. just please no.

Posted by svelterogue 08/03/2007 at 07:30 PM

jb, what's ktnso?

snoo, have a bowl of nice warrrm milk. purrrr.

Posted by Ray Stonada 08/03/2007 at 07:35 PM

Have I mentioned that I read in the New York Post that Uncle Toni owed Pedro Almodovar big money from betting on Penelope Cruz to take the Oscar, and that Pedro sent Gael Garcia Bernal with Barbaro's head to Mallorca just after the Queen's Club, and Rafa was seen agonizing about something and nodding to his Tio just BEFORE hitting the ball wide of the line on break point in the fifth set during the Wimbledon final, and Guillermo Arriaga has written a screenplay about it and two parallel stories involving an Inuit ballboy and a Pakistani human rights lawyer? It's called "21 Babolats."

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 07:39 PM

Kolya The Not So Obscure

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 07:43 PM

Yeah, these journalist types are always stirring things up, making trouble. I'm sure Pete was thrilled to have this opportunity to bring Kolya crashing down to earth.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 07:47 PM

I am going with the theory that "fixer" refers to that obscure meaning of itself: pain killer.

Posted by VE 08/03/2007 at 07:52 PM

This might sound like a stupid question, but I can't figure out for the life of me why betting would be going on DURING a match?Wouldn't you close the line a few minutes before the players take the court?

Posted by TennisRone 08/03/2007 at 07:53 PM

I'm kind of in Dunlop's camp on this. Outside of duress, I have trouble believing an individual player would regularly want to dump matches. I have to admit, I'm amazed on the numbers involved in this relatively obscure match.

I don't consider myself an expert on the subject by any means, but the sponsors of this generally make their cash on the volume of orders, not whom wins (I think 10% of the bet is the average fee). If no one can actually verify where/whom the money was originated from, that would probably be a sign of some potentially dirty play.

I don't know that the ATP can really police the smaller tourneys as effectively for such activity. Frankly, as a tennis fan, it doesn't seem like it would be necessary. Bizarre results don't occur often enough that I find myself raising an eyebrow.

It is a troubling topic, nonetheless.

Posted by TennisRone 08/03/2007 at 08:20 PM

...Penelope Cruz...*drool*....

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 08:22 PM

VE: the British betting companies such as Betfair and Bwin offer bets during the match itself (and during other sporting events such as soccer matches) and post the changing odds during play. In tennis the odds frequently change frequently even during a set, not just at the end of a set.

Posted by TennisRone 08/03/2007 at 08:27 PM

jhurwi: betting like that during the match must be dizzying. That reminds me of popping a couple of quarters in the slot machine and saying a prayer. How can Betfair and Bwin even maintain a book like that? A tennis point takes about...oh 5 seconds. 20 seconds in between points. Wild....

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 08:35 PM

You know if you took the pt by pt odds that betfair generates, used that to calculate the relative importance of a that point withing the match, and fed that into Dr Paserman's research, we might have something.

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 08:51 PM

Ptenisnet: you and Andrew should get together to do the statistics! I must admit that I didn't understand how Dr. Paserman arrived at his estimates that winning a certain point would mean Federer had a 60% chance of winning a match whereas losing that point meant he had a 55% chance of winning it. Obviously there are people who work for bookmakers who come up with that sort of estimate all the time.

I assume that other bookmakers besides Betfair were taking bets on the Davydenko match. Is Betfair the only one who is refusing to pay out?

Posted by Lucy 08/03/2007 at 09:00 PM

TENNIS AND THE RUSSIAN MOB. Can we take a moment to appreciate the old schoolness of this?

Maybe my moral compass has gone awry from too much reality tv or something, but if Kolya himself isn't involved, if it's just information about an injury "getting out", I don't really see what's wrong with that? Isn't asymmetrical information exactly what makes betting attractive in the first place?

And like if Betfair can just suspend paying out winnings do you as a gambler have to take into account not only H2H and odds and injuries and what have you but also the possibility that Russian mobsters might become involved and result in non-payment of legit winnings? Cos if you knew that was a possible outcome you might very well decide to take your money elsewhere.

Posted by arbi09 08/03/2007 at 09:00 PM

I am glad Pete brought up this subject because I was meaning to write about it since some days now but did not find the right topic. Besides being a tennis lover I am also someone who uses betting as a hobby and can bring some more light in the matter in question since I’m well informed about it.

Davydenko-Arguello match was only the tip of the iceberg. Match fixing in tennis has reached a scandalous magnitude in these last weeks after Wimledon. There has been more than one match every day, whose outcome has been fixed and well-known judging from betting patterns before the match or during it.
So much so that Betfair, probably pushed by the ATP too, was “forced” in a move that has never been done before. They voided all the bets on this match.

Believe me, nothing would have been done if it wasn’t absolutely necessary to make a move trying to stop a phenomenon that used to happen only once in a while in the past, involving mostly some journeymen, but is happening every day in the last month, involving even top 5 players, like Davydenko. He’s not the most typical one, as opposed to his opponent Arguello or others like Volandri, but certainly the one who should be more shameful about it, if not condemned, considering his status as a top player.

I don’t know if ATP is going to do anything about it, but they certainly must if they want to salvage the integrity of the game that is at huge risk here.

Is it difficult to find any physical proof unless you consider the betting patterns as one? But if insider training is considered a crime based on similar evidence, so should be this one which is even worse in my opinion. Anyone with the smallest knowledge about betting wouldn’t have had any doubt on what was going on watching the betting prices in these matches. And Betfair certainly can reveal the identity of the few accounts that has had a huge gain during these matches.

I doubt it that ATP will go that far, but this time they have to do something if they don’t want the situation to deteriorate even further.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 09:03 PM

That was classic luce.
I agree. That move from betfair sounds borderline bogus. Although, it appears that they dont stand to lose or gain a lot of money either way. social standing maybe.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 09:05 PM

Eagerly awaiting the light.

Posted by Andrew 08/03/2007 at 09:08 PM

The sport which has made the most use of intra-game probabilities, as far as I'm aware, is baseball. See, for example,, tracking the play-by-play team win probability.

This is easier to do in baseball because of the depth of statistical information available. For example, there is very detailed information on the expected number of runs a team will score with one out, runner on second, no 6 hitter facing a 2-1 count.

AFAIK, tennis has nothing like this statistical database. H2H counts, ATP rankings, sure. But go back to Federer - Nadal, Wimbledon F 2007, 1-1 15-40 on Federer's serve: we can come up with subjective probabilities on Nadal's winning the match, but I don't think there's any kind of database which allows you to callibrate those probabilities.

If Dr Paseman had a very rich data source to help him, I'd like to know about it.

Posted by Lucy 08/03/2007 at 09:10 PM

How are you holding up Ptenis? You should set out to clear Kolya's name. Top-five tennis players need champions too.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 09:14 PM

Cuz, unlike baseball, you cannot use the stats from a Federer-Nadal match to predict the outcome of say a Monfils-Safin match.
You can at best use it to comment on future Federer-Nadal matches and even then 11 matches probably isn't a lot of data.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 09:16 PM

arbi09: finally a voice of sanity. It's disheartening that so many people are dealing with this either through flippancy or denial based on a sentimental attachment to Davydenko. No-one is passing judgement on Davydenko, but a serious investigation is required to eliminate the problem. Just ignoring it or wishing it will go away is sure to make things worse.

Lucy, seriously, if it was just information about an injury "getting out", do you think there would be such a fuss about it?

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 09:16 PM

Snoo Foo: re your 4:59 post asking about "inside information." I asked my husband about this since he's a corporate lawyer who has to deal with, among other things, the rules about insider trading in a company's stocks.
If information is made available to the public, anybody can trade (or bet) on it--and that's not only if it's officially released by the corporation/tennis player. Stock traders (and bookmakers) are supposed to know any information that's publicly available.
So if John McEnroe talks about Nole's injury during a Wimbledon telecast, that information is publicly available and you can place your bet on that basis. If the bookmakers aren't listening to NBC, that's their problem.If Andy Roddick comes down to the hotel lobby the morning of the Dancevic match and says so loudly that any bystander could hear him, "I shouldn't have gone to Taco Bell at 1 a.m., my stomach feels terrible," that's public information and you can rush out to place your bet on Dancevic.
What you are not allowed to do is trade (or bet) on the basis of a position that allows you to have information that is not available to the public, and thereby to derive an advantage over the public. So if Roddick said the same thing in his hotel room to a member of his entourage,or to a tournament trainer treating him during the match, that person would not be allowed to bet using that information or give another bettor the information to use it to bet. According to my husband, that would be true even if the entourage member (or tournament trainer, etc.) had not signed a confidentiality agreement--but he was generalizing from his experience in business law and doesn't specifically know about the rules relating to sports.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 09:17 PM

Hm, there have been some mad crazy upsets in the anti-US Open series this year.

Man those stupid un-subtle gangsters, 7 million dollars, they had to go and ruin it for everyone, like in goodfellas when everyone ran out and bought cadillacs and fur coats right after the lufthansa heist after jimmy told them all not to buy anything.

What's freaky is this is the first time betfair has ever refused to pay out a bet, in any sport, ever, in its X year (month?) history. Maybe this was the last straw.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 09:20 PM

Oh jhurwi thank you for the explanation! That makes perfect sense.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 09:20 PM

I am currently waiting for some actual allegations against kolya to crop up. We can't have the whole "doth protest too much" argument you know.

What bugs me is this. So they got a quote out of the Arugula dude right? I can't see anything in the media about a quote from Davydenko. Not even to say he was unreachable for comment.
I can see how it was easier to get MVG because he was still at the tournie. But still.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 09:26 PM

Davydenko's agent Eckhard Oehms talked to BBC about it.

Posted by Ray Stonada 08/03/2007 at 09:30 PM

Snoo Foo, your Goodfellas reference made me love you. More.

Luce, my understanding is that info on injuries is NOT supposed to be kept secret in sports - it's exactly the opposite, at least in team sports. In football, Bill Parcells (a celebrated coach) used to be known as a sneaky hider of player's incapacities when releasing the team injury report. (You're supposed to honestly estimate each injured player's chance of playing as "probable," "questionable," "doubtful," or "out.")

I doubt that this was just a case of people noticing his injury, though - because the volume of bettors was so much higher than usual. Somethin' fishy was going on there...

Arbi09 makes much sense, they should investigate the accounts that were responsible for major quantities of cash.

Might I add here that I think Kolya's rascally-looking brother might be to blame?

Posted by arbi09 08/03/2007 at 09:30 PM

Snoo Foo - This was the last straw. As I said this wasn't the first match fixed this month but mayby the 20th. That's why it was absolutely indispensable to do something. The couldn't close an eye anymore because in this case they would have to become blind.

I got nothing against Davydenko, whom I even liked as a player in the past, and as I said he's not the worst one of them, but probably he's going to be the one to pay for it considering that no one expected even a top player to get involved into this.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 09:37 PM

You was my brother, Edouard, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Posted by Ray Stonada 08/03/2007 at 09:42 PM

One day the ballkids from the tournament carried my brother Niko's racquets all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 09:48 PM

In today's Montanes-Vassallo Arguello match, Vassallo Arguello didn't become a clear favorite even when leading 6-2, 4-1. Thank goodness for Davydenko - at least he's bringing attention to the problem. All these other low-level ATP matches are under the radar...

Posted by Andrew 08/03/2007 at 09:54 PM

ptenisnet: not sure why the difference between Federer-Nadal and Monfils-Safin is greater than the difference between Braves-Astros and Yankees-Mariners.

I think it's more a question of match situations. How often does a third set break stand up? What about a one set lead, but a break down? And so on.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 10:00 PM

Love Safin's take on the situation:

"I don't really care. Whatever people do, and whatever they want to do, I don't care. I just want to play my matches and enjoy my time.
I've enough problems myself".

Not exactly a show of solidarity, one notices. But the real value's in the classic Safinesque "I've enough problems myself" at the end.

Posted by DMS 08/03/2007 at 10:08 PM

ptenisnet: i just checked wikipedia, it don't mention no match fixing bout Koyla, so you goood.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 10:10 PM

Safin might want to start caring since he's being named in all these articles as having been photographed with this gambling dude. And he's gonna have another problem if anybody won money on wesley whitehouse in the 2r at indy last summer.

whoa ray, let's not start talking about ballkids again, even jokingly, cuz that could really besmirch the reputation of professional tennis.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 10:14 PM

DMS, it's subtle but it's definitely in there. References to tanking, retiring, and throwing tournaments.

Posted by Ray Stonada 08/03/2007 at 10:17 PM

Sorry, let's call 'em Wilander tots.

Posted by DMS 08/03/2007 at 10:23 PM

snoo...we is trying to cheer up the ptenisnet one now!

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 10:23 PM

What, Snoo, you don't think Marat is capable of losing to Wesley Whitehouse without any ulterior motive? You do him a grave injustice, you really do.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 10:24 PM

thanks for the info about the agent dude sahadev. He seems to be standing by his man which is to be expected.

Andrew, I dont know why there is either, but I suspect there is.
I expect it's the difference between playing one opponent vs a team.
Individual ability vs strategy.
And how long a 3rd set break might standup might actually depend on who you are playing.

I strongly suspect that this might be the same in baseball too. That beyond the general wisdom of what to do in any given situation, there is also information specific to the specific team you are playing that might apply.
Also that yankees might have played more matches against the mariners than federer against nadal or gael against marat.

Posted by Kevin 08/03/2007 at 10:42 PM

i don't bet, but went to have a look at the Betfair page. To bet online you have to have an open account with Betfair giving your email, address and credit card details. Wouldn't it just be easy for Betfair to check the customer details of the customers who bet on this Davy match? And if it so happens that 90% of the surnames were Russian...

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 10:45 PM

pt, if it's any consolation, they will never be able to prove anything. Interestingly, most people on the message boards I checked blame either Eduard or Irina...

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 10:46 PM

arbi09 re insider trading: The mere fact that someone bought or sold stock shortly after learning the "inside information" is not enough to make a legal case either for fraud or for insider trading. For example, in the Enron case, Kenneth Lay was able to give all sorts of reasons (other than deliberate deception of investors) for selling his own Enron stock while he was still reassuring investors that the company was financially sound.

Insider trading is a difficult crime to prosecute successfully unless one of the parties makes a plea bargain to testify against the other. Even then, there is always the question of the credibility of the witness; you generally need evidence of communications (remember the Martha Stewart case).

Posted by Veruca Salt (Deluxe Edition) 08/03/2007 at 10:52 PM

Look how this thread has grown! Should we start calling ourselves CSI:TW???

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 10:57 PM

I think I might be more peeved if Irina was accused of anything.

Reason no. 25 to have an entourage bigger than 2 people.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 11:02 PM

and really there is alternate reason why they wont be able to prove anything.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 11:07 PM

I knew it was Irina. everything was fine until she came along.

Mlle Salt, I have that feeling of like, I had something I wanted to tell you but now I can't remember what it was.

CSI: Sopot.

Posted by Kevin 08/03/2007 at 11:13 PM

The Roger's Cup draw has just been released and i note that in the first round Davydenko will be playing against Bye. I'll put a couple of grand on Bye, because Davy is sure to lose.

Posted by Sahadev 08/03/2007 at 11:16 PM

Well, the theory is Irina has expensive tastes. And hence...

Yeah, I wish Kolya is innocent too. But more important that match-fixing is stamped out.

Posted by jhurwi 08/03/2007 at 11:24 PM

Kevin: I'm not sure that checking the data on customer accounts would lead one to the actual bettors. My son-in-law who works in computers doesn't like online vendors to get hold of his personal information, so he regularly sets up temporary online accounts to make purchases, using email addresses that he then discards. I don't see why this wouldn't work equally well for betting sites. I'm sure that professional gamblers would know how to set up accounts using fake names and addresses, temporary email addresses, and credit cards that aren't in their real name.

Posted by ptenisnet 08/03/2007 at 11:34 PM

if wishes were horses, beggars would make a lot of money betting on them.

Posted by Snoo Foo 08/03/2007 at 11:53 PM

jhurwi, I nominate you to run the investigation. enlist your husband and s-i-l.

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