Five key findings from The Post’s investigation of match-fixing in tennis


A Washington Post investigation of a vast match-fixing ring, and how the changing nature of gambling has corrupted tennis, is based on dozens of interviews with players, coaches, investigators, tennis officials and match fixers. The Post obtained tens of thousands of the central match fixer’s text messages, hundreds of pages of internal European law-enforcement documents, and the interrogation transcripts of players.

The maestro: The man who built the biggest match-fixing ring in tennis.

The unraveling: How a small-town police officer took down the largest match-fixing ring in tennis

1. Gambling on tennis has exploded in recent years, increasing to roughly $50 billion annually. About a quarter of that sum is wagered on matches within the sport’s lowest tier, many of them so obscure that they aren’t televised and offer meager prize money, often just over $2,000 for a tournament’s winner. Match fixers have found opportunity at the sport’s lowest level to bribe players who struggle to earn a sustainable income.

2. With 47,000 matches a year in 65 countries, the International Tennis Federation proved particularly vulnerable to match-fixing. Because of the emergence of “spot betting,” in which gamblers can bet on a point or a game, rather than a contest’s outcome, players are now able to work with match fixers to throw a component of some the least-watched matches, while still defeating their opponent.

3. The ring, based in Belgium, built a roster of more than 180 professional players from more than 30 countries who would fix matches, or parts of matches, investigators said. A lawyer representing professional tennis said it was the biggest in the history of tennis. The man behind the ring, Grigor Sargsyan, traveled around Europe to keep his roster happy. He paid the players with envelopes full of cash at Paris train stations; he took them out to fancy dinners; he bought an engagement ring so one player could give it to his girlfriend.

4. Even after Sargsyan’s arrest and conviction, professional tennis continues to receive about 100 alerts of irregular betting each year, an indication of fixed matches. That’s more than in any other sport. The ITF has extended its contract with Sportradar, a Swiss company that provides real-time data on obscure tennis matches to gamblers around the world, even after a 2018 internal review cautioned the tour against the impact of that contract on match-fixing syndicates.

5. Law enforcement agencies around the world have grown increasingly concerned about the link between sports gambling and organized crime. The FBI and Interpol have each formed units to combat match-fixing. The United Nations has gotten involved, calling organized crime “a major and growing threat to sport.” On the tennis tour, the sport has hired a team of investigators who interrogate players and seize their phones when they suspect that athletes are throwing matches. It was that team of investigators — and one particularly dogged Belgian police officer — who eventually took down Sargsyan’s ring.


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