Doubles specialists banned for betting on matches

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The Independent Online

The doubles specialists Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak, both recent tournament winners, were suspended yesterday by the ATP for betting on matches. Neither player wagered on his own matches, and an independent hearing officer found no evidence of any intent to affect the outcome of matches bet upon, the governing body of men's tennis said.

Cermak, a Czech ranked 34th in doubles, was suspended for 10 weeks beginning yesterday and fined $15,000 (£7,500). He teamed up with Rogier Wassen to win the doubles title on Sunday at the Dutch Open in Amersfoort. Mertinak, a Slovak ranked 37th in doubles, was suspended for two weeks and fined $3,000 (£1,500). He joined up with Petr Pala to win the doubles on Sunday at the Croatia Open in Umag.

Professional tennis has taken steps to combat gambling since an online betting site voided all bets on a match involving Nikolay Davydenko last year because of suspicious gambling patterns. Five Italians have been suspended and fined for betting on tennis. Other players have since come forward to say they were approached by people trying to influence a match.

The ATP said an investigation begun last November found Cermak bet on matches from September 2006 to February 2007. Mertinak bet on matches in October 2006, the ATP announced.

At Wimbledon last month, the ATP board approved new match-fixing sanctions recommended by an independent panel. Under new guidelines, players are required to report any suspicious contact from gambling syndicates within 48 hours of being approached.

Sanctions range up to life bans being imposed on players found guilty of match-fixing. Players and their families and entourages also could be banned from betting on matches.