Sunday, February 10, 2008

Davydenko -- ultimate tennis villain?

By Rick Morris

This investigative report conducted by ESPN reporters John Barr and William Weinbaum may end up turning not just the tennis world but perhaps the entire sports universe on its ear. At its core is extremely strong evidence that the chickens are coming home to roost in terms of the explosion of sports gambling over the Internet in the last dozen years.

Long story short: top men's player Nikolay Davydenko was in a tournament match in Poland last August 2 against ginormous underdog Martin Vassallo Arguello. In the world rankings, Davydenko was #4 at the time and Arguello was #87. Davydenko was the tournament's defending champion.

And yet the betting poured in heavily on Arguello at the Betfair gambling service, in volumes completely unprecedented for such a prohibitive underdog. Stranger still, with Arguello on his way to getting predictably thrashed, large amounts of money continued to be wagered on him (Betfair operates under a complex system that allows betting, with adjusted odds, after games are underway). Arguello then pulled ahead after those wagers went into the system and then ...

Davydenko quit.

He was injured, he said. Stress fracture in the foot, don't you know. Of course, the crippling injury didn't stop him from making a spirited run to the semifinals of the U.S. Open that same month.

Read the story we have linked to and draw your own conclusions. For my part, I find the mountain of circumstantial evidence about the match being thrown to be persuasive. Even if I didn't however, I'd find Davydenko's remarks damning in and of themselves.

In the midst of denying that he was in cahoots with the Russian mafia to fix matches, he dropped in this little gem, "It's 2007 and there is no mafia in Russia." Whoa. Talk about a bridge too far!

How about this, Nick? There is a Russian mafia and they're paying for their dachas and Stoli by "correctly guessing" how your matches are going to end.

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