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Hall of Fame tennis championships

Heavy betting draws attention

Bloomfield focus on, off grass court

R. BLOOMFIELD Advances to semis R. BLOOMFIELD
Advances to semis
Associated Press / July 10, 2010

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Tennis officials are assessing reports of irregular betting on a first-round match between Richard Bloomfield and Christophe Rochus at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, R.I.

Online gambling exchange Betfair said yesterday that Tuesday’s match attracted an unusual $1.5 million in wagers and was the subject of dramatic price movement. Britain’s Bloomfield won the match, 7-6 (3-1), 6-3.

Bloomfield, ranked No. 552d, was rated even-money against his 160th-ranked Belgian opponent. In the hours before the match, the odds on Bloomfield winning shortened to 1-4. After he won the first set, the odds shorted to 1-8.

“If people are willing to risk 4 pounds to win 1, that is indicative of a substantial gamble,’’ Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said.

Notification of the irregular betting pattern was made to the Tennis Integrity Unit, an independent body created by the sport’s governing bodies to lead the fight against corruption.

It is standard procedure for the betting industry to share irregular activity on its markets with the TIU.

“It is not operational policy of the TIU to make any comment about an investigation that it may or may not be involved in,’’ TIU spokesman Mark Harrison told the AP.

Harrison was responding to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail that an investigation was to be launched into the betting on the Bloomfield-Rochus match. An investigation represents a significant step and would involve the TIU asking Betfair to pass on information on specific bets laid on the match.

Bloomfield advanced to the semifinals at the Newport grass-court tournament yesterday after beating 18-year-old American Ryan Harrison, 5-7, 7-6 (5-3), 7-5. Bloomfield will face fifth-seeded Mardy Fish, who defeated Frank Dancevic of Canada, 6-7 (8-6) 6-4, 6-4. Fish is the highest-seeded American remaining in the tournament, reached his fifth ATP semifinal.

The 27-year-old Bloomfield was also caught up in a betting controversy in 2006, when his 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq in the first round at Wimbledon was investigated following irregular patterns.

“It’s something I don’t know what to say,’’ Bloomfield said. “I know England’s a big betting nation. It seems like every time I win a decent match, that comes up. I really don’t know what to say.’’

No conclusion was reached by authorities about the match. There is no suggestion Bloomfield is implicated in the irregular betting surrounding his victory over Rochus.

The TIU has reached just one conclusion into a corruption investigation.

In January, it fined Russian Ekaterina Bychkova $5,000 and barred her from playing for 30 days, saying she failed to report that she was asked to provide inside information and throw matches.

Bloomfield, a qualifier entering the week, will be making his first ATP semifinal appearance. Fish, who had knee surgery in September, has dropped 30 pounds and entered the week ranked 79th.

Stephen Wood of the AP contributed to this report from London.