Tennis is one of the sports that, unfortunately, has been most associated with the world of sports betting since its birth. Fixing, organized crime plots, real mafias behind the matches, and even players involved in match-fixing have been dotting this sport.

The image of tennis has been, therefore, on many occasions very deteriorated, in question due to this type of situation. That of the sport of rackets in general and that of minor tournaments in particular, which are surely the main victims of all this type of tricks in which a few seek economic benefit through cheating.

The ATP It has several ranges of competitions, as if it were divisions, and in them both the points and the prizes that are distributed are in line with the category of the tournament. The Grand Slam They are the best events on the circuit, and the ATP tournaments follow them on the ladder. The best tennis players in the world are always concentrated there, those with the best ranking and, obviously, those with the most media expectation.

But one step below are other competitions, perhaps more unknown to the general public, where cheaters see a perfect breeding ground to make a profit. It’s all about the tournaments Challenger and the Futures, competitions with fewer resources, with players with a lower ranking or with young people who are even taking their first steps in tennis professionally. That is where everything shady that can involve sports betting makes its way more easily, although both the tournaments themselves and the ATP provide tools to avoid it.

The Challenger fight

THE SPANISH has been able to speak with the organizers of three of the major Challenger category tournaments that take place in spain to learn first-hand about the mechanisms that are put in place to fight against fraud. The Copa Sevilla Challengerthe AnyTech365 Andalusia Open and the Challenger Costa Calida Region of Murcia They are events that have experienced this type of trick first hand and already have experience fighting against those who come to their stands to take advantage of their tournaments.

The organizers coincide in pointing out that sports betting has become, for some time now, a big problem for them, although they are not going to stop this fight that they maintain for the integrity of their tournaments. Most of them have, in fact, come across cases in their latest editions and have had to take action on the matter.

The ATP is aware of the risk that sports betting poses for this type of tournament and is also committed to the fight. For some years now, it is the international organization itself that is in charge of sending a person in charge to each of these competitions who closely monitors that abnormal events do not occur.

This figure is the one who scans the horizon in the stands and is in charge of watching over those people who maintain a suspicious attitude. Fans who go to the slopes alone, who always have their mobile phone in hand or who are even regulars at several of these tournaments, always raise suspicions and attract the attention of these ATP employees. This person always works in coordination with the management of the tournaments themselves and they jointly watch over the good of the competitions.

the anything goes

The appearance of sports betting has caused several situations to occur at different scales. There are from mafias that organize the development of certain points together with the players, to envoys or private bettors who take advantage of the small delay of online betting houses to anticipate the plays.

“We put ourselves in the hands of the ATP, and if whoever comes decides that someone has to be thrown out, they will be thrown out without problems. We trust their criteria,” he points out. santiago perezthe director of the Seville Cup that organizes the Royal Betis Tennis Club. In fact, in the last edition of this tournament there was a related case and they had to remedy it: “They warned me that in a match there was an unusual movement of money in the bookmakers, so we notified the person in charge of the ATP to put order”.

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Of course, Santiago accepts reality with resignation: “It is something difficult and very complicated, there is no solution,” he confesses. However, this tournament remains firm and hand in hand with the international tennis organization to safeguard the integrity of the competition.

In Marbellaat the AnyTech 365 Andalucía Open they also know very well what they are talking about, as their Communications Director points out, Manuel Moreno: “It is true that at the Challenger level there is less and that in Futures you see more, but the ATP sends people to supervise this issue. There is great control, they are in charge of supervising it themselves and they also have people ‘on file'” .

In the Challenger Costa Cálida Region of Murcia they also speak with knowledge of the facts by the hand of Antonio Saurathe president of the Real Murcia Tennis Club 1919: “We, apart from following the instructions of the ATP, put security that we hired for the week of the tournament, in addition to our employees. They are aware and have had curious situations, but it is true that there is a lot of influx of this and that it has gone further”, says Saura.

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The tricks to take advantage of the bettors arrive at the most unexpected, as Antonio Saura himself admits: “They got to climb some buildings near the club, which are tall, up to the roof, and they watched the games from there until they we had to call the police,” he recalls.

Although he does not need to look back that far because this year he has experienced another most surreal episode: “Some kids showed up at the club saying they were my sons. I don’t have sons, I only have daughters, so the goalkeepers They told them they couldn’t get in. They use any ruse,” he says.

Fundamental part of tennis

For these tournaments, having to fight against sports betting is a big obstacle in the hard race that involves getting ahead each year. All of them are events that are part of an important calendar for many players, that serve as a springboard for some and that allow the youngest to begin to gain professional experience.

A clear example is Carlos Alcaraz. The brand new current number 1 in tennis began to take his first steps in this type of Challenger tournament and, in fact, he got his first ATP point in the Costa Cálida Region of Murcia. “We can boast that Carlos Alcaraz got his first ATP point here, because at the age of 14 we gave him a Wild Card and he reached the third round. It was February 14, 2017 when he beat Frederick Gaius“, remembers Antonio Saura with pride.

In the AnyTech 365 Andalucía Open, for their part, this year they have had a truly luxurious lineup: “We have had Dominic Thiem Already Wawrinkawhich have given us significant international visibility”, says Manuel Moreno about two great players on the circuit. However, he acknowledges that when there are no tennis players of such a high level, everything is a little more complicated: “In Spain, tennis culture is surrounded by ‘top’ players, and those who are not so much, it costs a little more to follow them”.

However, Moreno highlights the high quality of the players who year after year pass through his courts: “Year after year we try to encourage people to enjoy tennis because the level is not far from an ATP tournament.”

In the Sevilla Cup they are also happy with the level of participation they usually have: “Our Challenger 90 is one of the ones with the most Top100 in the ranking. There are players like nationals like Carballés, Andújar, Zapata… which is also very convenient for them because it saves costs. The players are very fond of the Seville Cup and we have had more than 20 different nationalities this year”, says Santiago Pérez.

good follow up

Luckily, the pandemic has not wiped out any of these tournaments. Either by private or public contributions, or by the support of the members of the tennis club that organizes them, they have been able to get ahead and in a fairly neat way. Now, several of them are facing a reconfiguration because the ATP has decided to change the category of the Challenger tournaments and that entails changes such as the prize pool.

Roberto Carballés registers his name as winner of the Seville Cup


But at the follow-up level, the organizations of these competitions are happy. There are tournaments with a long tradition and century-old clubs, so their respective brands are more than consolidated and that helps attract players and also the public to the courts.

As is logical, in the first days, as in ATP tournaments, the stands are emptier, but with the arrival of the final rounds the public responds. “We have free entry because we wanted the tournament to be for our members and for the fans of Murcia. On the center court we put extra stands and the last year that Alcaraz played when he was already standing out was crazy, “says Antonio Saura.

In the AnyTech 365 Andalucía Open they recognize, obviously, that in a Challenger tournament it costs more to fill the stands, but they also point to the last days as the key: “In the last days we usually have the stands full, that is, we are very happy. And this year with Thiem, even more”, says Manuel Moreno.

They also experience it in a similar way in the Sevilla Cup: “In the semifinals and in the final we are full, and in the quarterfinals we will be 75% full. In 2019 we had Carlos Alcaraz playing a first round and the track was half empty. Sometimes players who are going to be very big in the future are not valued”, concludes Santiago Pérez.


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