Italian tennis players accused of fixing matches

Italian tennis players Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace are facing corruption accusations after intercepted internet conversations claiming they sold matches were printed yesterday in Italian media.

Potito Starace is one of two Italian tennis players accused of corruption. Picture: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP Photo

The conversations are part of the extensive data that judicial investigators in Cremona have been sorting through in a match-fixing inquiry into football.

In a July 2007 conversation on Skype between Bracciali and an accountant who was arrested in 2011, Bracciali discusses arranging a match in Newport, Rhode Island, against American player Scoville Jenkins. Jenkins won the match 6-2, 6-1.

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In 2011, an owner of a betting shop who was later arrested is heard saying that Starace agreed to sell the final of a tournament in Casablanca.

Pablo Andujar of Spain won the final 6-1, 6-2.

Prosecutor Roberto Di Martino, who is leading the Cremona inquiry, confirmed to media the authenticity of the conversations.

Di Martino added that foreign tennis players might also be involved.

“I can’t rule that out,” Di Martino said. “But I can’t say anything more for now.”

Bracciali and Starace, neither of whom is officially under investigation, refused to comment after pairing together to win a first-round doubles at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow yesterday.

The Italian tennis federation (FIT) said it will request copies of all the documents from 
Cremona authorities involving tennis players.

“If the inquiry confirms what went on in the intercepted conversations published by the newspapers then we’ll be dealing with serious and intolerable offences,” FIT president Angelo Binaghi said in a statement.

The Last Bet operation has resulted in more than 100 people placed under investigation in Italy since mid-2011, with suspect football matches being looked at by prosecutors in Cremona, Bari and Naples.

The inquiry is branching out to other sports.

The 36-year-old Bracciali is a doubles specialist while the 33-year-old Starace is ranked 150th in singles.

Bracciali and Starace were already two of five Italians – along with Alessio Di Mauro, Giorgio Galimberti and Federico Luzzi – who were given suspensions in 2007-08 by the ATP ranging from six weeks to nine months for betting.

In other cases of match-fixing in tennis, life bans were handed to Daniel Koellerer of Austria in 2011, David Savic of Serbia in 2012, and Andrey Kumantsov of Russia this year.

In July, one man was charged and five others arrested in an Australian police operation against an international tennis match-fixing syndicate.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal will not make any decision on his schedule for the rest of the year until he has played in the Swiss Indoors in Basel next week.

The world No 3 has been battling a bout of appendicitis recently but has preferred to treat the condition with antibiotics instead of surgery to remove his appendix.

There were reports in the Spanish media yesterday that Nadal was to undergo the operation which would force him to miss the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour Finals in London.

But his team have rubbished those rumours, stating that any decision will not be made until he has taken part in his next competition, which gets under way on Monday. His press agent said in a short statement: “Rafa Nadal will play Basel this upcoming week and depending on how he feels and the advice from his doctors will decide after the tournament on his schedule.”

Nadal made his return from a wrist injury late last month but could only reach the quarter-finals of the China Open in Beijing before he was knocked out of the Shanghai Masters at the second round stage.

Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and his Australian partner John Peers eased past Johan Brunstrom and Nicholas Monroe 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of the Stockholm Open men’s doubles.

Andy Murray is playing in this week’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna, where he received a bye in the first round and will face Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in round two today.

There was a shock at the BGL Luxembourg Open yesterday as second seed Alize Cornet was eliminated from the tournament.

The Frenchwoman went down to Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-3 in the second round.

Third seed Sabine Lisicki was also defeated, the German losing 7-5, 6-2 to qualifier Denisa Allertova.

Sixth seed Roberta Vinci also went out, the Italian losing to Annika Beck 7-5, 6-0, but fourth seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova went through, beating Alison van Uytvanck 6-4, 7-6 (7/1).

Patricia Mayr-Achleit got the better of Pauline Parmentier 6-1, 7-5, fifth-ranked Varvara Lepchenko cruised past Jana Cepelova 6-2, 6-2 and Johanna Larsson recovered from a set down to knock out Polona Hercog 6-7 (8/10), 7-5, 6-1.

In the other match, Mona Barthel hit back from losing 6-0 in the first set to beat Monica Niculescu 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 .