ATP chief vows to take tough line on betting

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The Independent Online

Cricket's gambling scandals prompted the custodians of men's professional tennis to become "proactive," Mark Miles, the ATP's chief executive, said as the Madrid Masters got under way here yesterday.

After a weekend of disquiet about internet betting on tennis spurred an ATP investigation into allegations of match-fixing, Miles pledged to "protect the integrity of the sport."

"A few years ago, when cricket experienced problems with betting, we became very focused on gambling," Miles said. "At the end of 2001, we changed our rules so that if a player is found to have gambled on his match he will be fined $100,000 [£61,700] and suspended for three years. [In tennis] three years is a lifetime."

The ATP would do everything possible to trace and punish offenders, he said.

"I have every confidence in our players, and I can tell you that the reaction in the locker-room has been one of disbelief. Players do not make the grade unless they put in a lot of work and have a lot of pride."

Wayne Ferreira emphasised that he is not a gambling man. However, having advanced to meet the world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, of Spain, in the second round, the 32-year-old South African spoke about a controversial match between the Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov and the Spaniard Fernando Vicente.

Last Tuesday, bookmakers suspended betting on the match in Lyon six hours before it was due to start after an £80,000 wager was placed on Vicente, who had not won a match since June. The Spaniard, whose price tumbled from 5-1 to odds-on favourite, won 6-2, 6-3. There was no suggestion that either player was involved in any wrong-doing.

Ferreira said: "I know for a 100 per cent fact that Yevgeny had a bad foot. I know, playing doubles with him for a long time, he's had this problem before. He told me it was back. He tried his best and just couldn't win."

Asked if the unusual level of betting on the match was a grave concern for tennis, Ferreira said: "It's possible, yes."

Inside knowledge of a player's physical condition could be passed on by a coach, a trainer, a relative, or a friend.

"There's inside information on any sport," Ferreira said. "OK, tennis is a little different, because it's an individual sport. But everybody knows stuff that they shouldn't know."

However, he stressed: "If the rules are being broken, they need to be enforced."

Jarkko Nieminen's match against Feliciano Lopez, of Spain, at Long Island in August was the subject of a supervisor's report, requested by Richard Ings, the ATP's disciplinary chief. Lopez retired when 1-0 down in the second set and Ings was alerted to suspicious betting patterns.

"Lopez was throwing up the whole day. He really couldn't finish the match," said Nieminen.

The 22-year-old Finn added: "Tennis is so tight nowadays that you can't pay too much attention to what should happen on paper. There are so many surprising results. When I'm playing well, I feel like I can almost beat anyone, even the top 10 players. If I play bad, I can easily lose against guys who are ranked over 100.

"If a player is cheating, using doping or betting against himself, those are the worst things he can do."

* Martina Navratilova will risk her unbeaten Fed Cup record when she plays for America against Belgium after an eight-year break from the women's team competition. Navratilova, unbeaten in 37 Fed Cup ties, will be 47 when the semi-finals takes place in Moscow on November 19-20, becoming the oldest player in the cup's 40-year history.