A strategic tank a week before the US Open or a fix? Alexander Dolgopolov was a considerable favourite to win his first-round match in Winston-Salem against Thiago Monteiro. However, he lost 3-6, 3-6 after a contest that many tennis fans believe to have been fixed.
Monteiro’s game is best suited to clay courts and before the match, he was still seeking for his first ATP main draw hard court win. According to all indications, this should have gone into Dolgopolov’s hands, rather comfortably. Bookmakers placed the Ukrainian as a considerable favourite, at around 1.30 odds.
However, something very suspicious started happening about four hours before the time that the match was due to start at. A lot of bets were placed on Thiago Monteiro, and the betting sites started removing betting on this match. Pinnacle.com would delete it from their offer just under two hours before the planned start when Dolgopolov’s odds reached 1.63.
Bet365.com waited up until 2.37, and then the staff decided that there was something wrong with the match and closed the market. Coral decided to pull the plug at 2.50. Fifteen minutes before the match, Dolgopolov’s odds skyrocketed to 3.15 at Betfair exchange.
Dolgopolov looked clueless against Monteiro, hitting very wild unforced errors, hitting double faults at important points and being extremely unclutch on the return. In the second set alone, he twice had the 30-0 advantage on his opponent’s serve but then started struggling to get the ball into play.
The Ukrainian made Monteiro’s serve look almost “Karlovicesque” as that was his first ATP main draw hardcourt match that he has not lost his serve in. In the Brazilian’s seven previous losses on this surface, he was broken no less than 31 times. It seemed like whenever Dolgopolov got any chance to seek for a break, he just started putting the ball five meters behind the baseline.
Match-fixing is a kind of a “forgotten” problem in tennis, but it’s not like there weren’t suspicious matches in the last years. The most significant player to have ever been accused of match-fixing is probably the former world no.3 Nikolay Davydenko, who is believed to have fixed his match against Martin Vassallo Arguello at the 2007 Orange Prokom Open in Sopot. The Russian has also been fined for tanking, and because lack of effort might sometimes be confused with corruption, we can’t say that Dolgopolov’s loss was a fix. However, various reasons would incline that, and this will for sure be a match that the ATP will have to look closer into. The tournaments that take place a week before Grand Slams are often known for surprising results and strategic tanks, so maybe the Ukrainian deserves the benefit of a doubt.
What’s very interesting, the very same day, Ukrainian WTA player Kateryna Bondarenko lost to Ana Bogdan 2-6, 2-6 in New Haven and Bogdan’s odds also skyrocketed just before the match started. In contrast, Bondarenko should have been a huge favourite to win it.
Tennis fans all over the world went crazy about this match, and if they could they would probably ban Dolgopolov for life, but let’s not get too excited and wait to see what will be the ATP’s decision on that situation.