Who says tennis is boring? Okay, maybe 78% of people in polls. But they don’t know about the arrest of Russian tennis play, Yana Sizikova, taken into custody yesterday by French police during the 2021 French Open.
The allegations by authorities against Sizikova actually date back to last year’s French Open, when somebody told somebody that Sizikova and her women’s double tennis partner, American Madison Brengle, had thrown at least one game in a match. It’s not clear if Brengle was a part of the allegation or not. According to the lawyer for Sizikova, his client was investigated shortly after the 2020 French Open for intentionally double-faulting in her service in a game against a Romanian women’s doubles team opponent.
Sizikova’s attorney explained that his client had explained her side of the story to officials in France last year and believed everything was copacetic. French officials must’ve had a different take on the exchange because when Sizikova returned to Paris this past week to compete in the 2021 French Open, they arrested her after another women’s doubles match in connection to this same investigation.
Little is known about what took place after Sizikova’s arrest. Though she was more formally interviewed by a French prosecutor perhaps smoking a very thin cigarette. But she was released not long after her arrest and being taken into custody.
Reuters reached out to the Women’s Tennis Association, who did not respond. So they reached out to the International Tennis Integrity Agency, which was set up to prevent these very cases, but the ITIA refused to comment. The Russian Tennis Federation did comment by saying basically they heard of the arrest but had no idea what was going on. Either they’re not telling the truth or Russian sports federations are no longer entirely run by the KGB.
It’s fair to say nobody knows much about the veracity of the allegations. Clearly, the French did not feel obliged to make an international incident in keeping Sizikova detained for very long in French custody.
For those not familiar with tennis fixing scandals, this is hardly the first. According to Wikipedia, these are the tennis match-fixing scandals that have come to light in the past 20 years, providing the emphasis for setting up the Integrity Agency:
- In 2003, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in London carried a front-page story entitled, “Tennis players are throwing matches for financial gain”. Its investigations included references to numerous matches, including one that involved a top 10-ranked player. As a result of the Telegraph’s investigations, “Internet odds exchange Betfair announce[d] that it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)”
- In 2007, French tennis player Arnaud Clément claimed he was offered a bribe to fix a match, which he turned down, but added, “I won’t say where or under what circumstances”. Clément feared divulging more details on the bribe would have negative consequences on his career.
- In 2008, the Association of Tennis Professionals cleared Russian tennis player Nikolay Davydenko from allegations that he fixed a match against Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland in 2007. In 2016, an investigation found that several millions of dollars were placed on the match from Russian-based accounts. Leaked files to the joint Buzzfeed and BBC investigators found 82 instances where Davydenko had sent or received text messages from the suspected head of an Italian sports betting syndicate.
- In January 2016, a joint Buzzfeed and BBC investigation reported alleged widespread match-fixing, which involve Northern Italian, Sicilian, and Russian betting syndicates, which included suspicious betting at major tournaments such as Wimbledon. The reporters examined betting incidents on a total of 26,000 matches.
- In June 2018, Argentinian tennis player Nicolás Kicker was banned from the sport for at least three years for match-fixing. According to an investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit, Kicker knowingly participated in at least two fixed matches in 2015. The ruling prohibits Kicker from competing in or attending a sanctioned tennis match.
- In July 2018 Egyptian tennis player Karim Hossam received a lifetime ban for match-fixing.
- In August 2019, Egyptian tennis player Issam Haitham Taweel was suspended for five years for match-fixing and other corruption offenses.
- In September 2019 Brazilian tennis player Diego Matos received a lifetime ban for match-fixing.
- In May 2020 Egyptian tennis player Youssef Hossam received a lifetime ban for match-fixing, as his brother Karim had two years prior.
No sport is immune to the unpleasantries of fixing, not when gambling outcomes are involved. If you thought tennis was purer than other sports, perhaps it’s time to rethink. Though with Sizikova specifically, we’ll await word on where the investigation leads. Presumably, they did not arrest her after her match at the French Open just for kicks.