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Betfair catches whiff of tennis match fix

Fraud, anyone?

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The gentlewomen of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have gotten their knickers in a twist over some unusual betting activity at the online betting exchange Betfair, the AP reports.

The suspicions led Betfair to suspend payouts on the match, in which 120th-ranked Mariya Koryttseva beat No. 96 Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Sunfeast Open in India.

The latest incident - which brought back memories of allegations of possible fixing in a match between Nikolay Davydenko and 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland back in August - says as much about an abundance of caution at Betfair as it does the moral state of tennis. In that case, which is still under investigation by the the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Betfair took the extreme and unprecedented step of voiding all bets on the match.

Betfair conducted an internal investigation of the betting on the Koryttseva/Poutchek match, and eventually paid out, satisfied that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Tennis, like boxing, is an easy game to fix, and the earlier Betfair incident appears to have opened up a can of worms for the sport. Last month, Gilles Elseneer of Belgium said he was offered more than $100,000 to lose a first-round match against Potito Starace of Italy at Wimbledon in 2005.

The French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche recently reported that several Italian tennis players had online betting accounts. That in turn raised the hackles of the Italian Tennis Federation, which threatened legal action against the players.

The WTA is investigating the circumstances surrounding the Koryttseva/Poutchek match.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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