Most sports fans have heard whispers that gambling had infiltrated professional tennis, but with all the news of steroids in baseball and zombies in our lake water, the tennis gambling story has taken a back seat.
That said, I strongly suggest you check out this ESPN account of just what’s going on with this situation (which I hereby dub “The Great Racket Racket”).
The story follows the gambling line on a match between world #4 Nikolay Davydenko and unheralded Martin Vassallo Arguello. Basically, the money on Arguello rose dramatically just before the match began last August — then rose even more even as Davydenko jumped out to a one set lead.
Davydenko eventually withdrew from the match, citing a bum foot. Some (i.e. those with a modicum of sensibility) say the event had all the hallmarks of a fix:
The ATP won’t comment on Davydenko’s medical condition. But it appears, from his record on the court immediately after the Sopot match, that he recovered fairly quickly. The week after retiring against Vassallo Arguello, Davydenko beat two players ranked in the top 30 at the event in Canada, the same event where Leitgeb says Davydenko was diagnosed with a stress fracture.
Two weeks later, Davydenko was healthy enough to make it to the semifinals of the U.S. Open before he lost to Roger Federer.
Davydenko says he’s never been approached to throw a match in his life. Fair enough, but then he tosses all credibility aside when asked if he has any connection to the Russian mafia:
“It’s 2007, and there is no mafia in Russia,” he says.
In his defense, it is 2008.