Betting scams mar Montcourt tragedy

Mathieu Montcourt
By tennisguru, July 8th, 2009

Mathieu Montcourt suspicious death in his home As the tragic news of professional tennis player Mathieu Montcourt’s death circulates, his as of yet unexplained death unearths a certain shameful side to the modern world of tennis.

Montcourt’s body was found in his Paris apartment on Monday by his girlfriend and an autopsy is expected to be carried out as soon as possible. The death has shocked the tennis world just days after yet another successful Wimbledon tournament.

The loss is significant to the game and comes with deep regret that the player, who was only 24, never had the chance to fully redeem himself after accusations of forming irregular betting patterns by placing large sums of money on tennis matches.

Professionals are forbidden from betting on matches and while Montcourt never punted on his own outcomes, he was widely believed to have influenced a number of outcomes during June and September of 2005.

In 2008, he was fined £7,500 ($12,000) and suspended for 8 weeks by the ATP for his suspect betting history. The Frenchman returned to the game eager to rectify his torn reputation and looked to be doing so as by June of this year he had achieved his highest career ranking of 104 after reaching the second round at the French Open.

Sadly, that was as much as this young man was able to do before his untimely death. Moncourt mainly played in the circuit’s challenger events but was a regular on the ATP tour, and it is unfortunate that his death is likely to reemerge talk of gambling in tennis.

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With Moncourt’s mistakes plus the case of Latvian player Irakli Labadze and gambler Martin Fuhrer put to rest in recent years, authorities were foolish to believe that the problem was eradicated.

Throughout this years Wimbledon tournament, certain inconsistencies were apparent with scoreboards both on the BBC’s television coverage and several well-respected sports websites.

Constant delays in updates of points and games won were seen on broadcasters’ scoreboards day in day out on even the most obscure games on SW19. It may not seem like a big problem, but in-play betting in tennis has become a phenomenon in recent months, especially in Britain were Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam shown on terrestrial television.

Thus, punters rely on internet scoreboards and the more trustworthy one on live BBC television coverage as in-play odds change constantly on online gambling websites with every point won. The theory behind the noticeable irregular score summaries is that scoreboard operators are being given backhanders for stalling their updates so punters can have time to place a bet before bookies have time to alter their odds.

For instance, a tie break in the first set of a match will have odds of the match winner yo-yoing as the players battle it out for the first set advantage. Punters can have eye witnesses courtside and on the phone giving immediate updates while bookkeepers heavily rely on the media’s coverage for updates, and with scoreboard operators delaying their duties with brass in pocket, a bet can be placed before the bookies even know of any change in score.

The theory opens up a whole new conspiracy towards gambling in tennis. Respected British newspaper The Guardian revealed before Wimbledon that the ATP were monitoring “six to twelve” players as match-fixing suspects throughout the tournament, whether irregularities were found from those unnamed players remains to be seen.

However, the latest craze of in-play gambling may force the ATP to turn their attentions to other areas of gambling in tennis as the US Open draws near. Many critics feel grunting is the biggest problem in the modern game, I for one feel punting poses a much greater threat.



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