Group monitoring tennis gambling says rise due to COVID-19

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The group charged with monitoring gambling and punishing corruption in tennis found a near-doubling in the number of suspect matches during the first three months of 2020 – an increase it tied to the coronavirus pandemic.

The London-based Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) issued its quarterly report Wednesday and said it received a total of 38 alerts from the regulated betting industry about matches on lower-level tours from the start of the year through March 22. That is up from 21 alerts in the same period of 2019.

The 38 match alerts in the year’s first quarter break down this way: six from the ATP Challenger Tour, and 16 apiece from the men’s and women’s International Tennis Federation World Tennis Tours.

An alert means unusual betting patterns were noticed but does not necessarily indicate there was match-fixing. It does trigger an assessment, and possibly a full investigation, by the TIU.

Wednesday’s TIU report concluded the jump in cases “is an indication that the entry levels of professional tennis were deliberately targeted by corruptors, as the sport moved towards suspension due to the” outbreak of COVID-19.

Like most other sports, tennis has been affected by the pandemic.

The All England Club canceled Wimbledon for the first time since World War II and all pro tennis tours have been put on hold at least until mid-July.

Contingency plans are being considered for when – and if – the tours can return to action in 2020.

The TIU went on to say that “in anticipation of heightened integrity concerns when tennis resumes,” it is working in conjunction with the various governing bodies of tennis to come up with “an education and awareness campaign to inform and support players, officials and tournament staff.”

Tournaments started getting called off in early March because of the spread of the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 1.4 million people worldwide, while more than 80,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are almost certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.

For most, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and death.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.