Wimbledon on alert after new betting controversy - Thursday 18th of June 2009

With only six days before the start of the Wimbledon Championships, mens tennis was embroiled in fresh gambling revelations last night.

Several bookmakers voided bets on a grass-court match in the Netherlands on Monday when the odds on one player shortened from 5-6 to 1-5 and a four-figure sum was wagered on him to win by a mystery punter.

The moment that “unusual betting patterns” were charted in the first-round match at the Ordina Open in s Hertogenbosch between Óscar Hernández, the world No 67 from Spain, and Daniel Köllerer, the Austrian ranked No 91, all bets were off and tennis authorities were alerted. Hernández, the man whose odds were slashed and the only player on whom money was placed, won 6-3, 6-2.

It is understood that one bet - said to be in the region of Ł4,000 - was placed on Hernández with William Hill by a backer whose identity was unknown to the bookmaker, immediately raising a red warning flag. “We are not suggesting there has been any skulduggery because we cannot know that,” Graham Sharp, the head of media at William Hill, said. “But we had no option but to close the book on this match for our financial welfare.”

Betfair, the online gambling company, voided all bets after $7million (now about Ł4.2million) was wagered - ten times the usual amount - most of it on Vassallo Argüello, even after Davydenko won the first set. Both players were cleared of any suspicion of match-rigging.

Now Hernández and Köllerer will come under scrutiny. Both are in the main draw for Wimbledon and by coincidence a match between them on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Challenger circuit has found its way on to YouTube.

The 35-second clip shows Hernández cavorting and laughing having beaten the Austrian. Hernández repeats: “You are so bad”, and when Köllerer walks to the chair where the Spaniard is putting away his rackets, Hernández says: “Dont talk to me”, followed by a blurred expletive.

Köllerer has a habit of infuriating opponents. At the Australian Open last year, when he was break point down to Jamie Baker, from Scotland, in the final round of qualifying, he called for the trainer in what was clearly a deliberate attempt to stall the match. It was delayed for more than ten minutes.

Roger Federer, the president of the ATP players council, responding to the news of another match causing concern, said: “It is never good for tennis when we hear of things like this and it is in the players power to control what they do at all times. That is the message to get across.”

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