Tennis: Doubles partners at Australian Open interviewed over match-fixing report

Poland's Lukasz Kubot (left) and Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova react during their mixed doubles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament on Monday.
Poland's Lukasz Kubot (left) and Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova react during their mixed doubles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament on Monday. PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Two players at the Australian Open said Monday they have been interviewed by officials over reports their opponents may have deliberately lost their first round mixed-doubles fixture, fuelling fresh fears of match-fixing in tennis.

The remarks by Lukasz Kubot and Andrea Hlavackova came after the New York Times reported an online bookmaker had suspended gambling on the lowly match because of unusual betting patterns.

All players involved in the match rejected the claims of a fix.

The allegation by betting firm Pinnacle Sports came after the BBC and BuzzFeed said last week players who had been in the sport's top 50 had repeatedly fallen under suspicion but had never faced action, citing leaked files.

The New York Times report on Sunday was dampened, however, by two major betting companies saying they had detected no suspicious activity.

Kubot and Hlavackova defeated Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero of Spain 6-0, 6-3 before bowing out in the second round.

"I just spoke with TIU (Tennis Integrity Unit)... and I will keep that confidential," Poland's Kubot told reporters on Monday, with his Czech partner Hlavackova also confirming she met with TIU officials.

Both said they had never been involved in a match where they thought anything was wrong.

"I didn't see and I didn't look at anything after the match," Kubot said.

Curacao-based Pinnacle was not immediately available to confirm the report.

Arruabarrena and Marrero, meanwhile, rejected any possibility of match-fixing, according to the New York Times.

The TIU did not immediately respond to queries, and Melbourne police would not comment on the case specifically.

The Sydney Morning Herald, however, reported on Monday that William Hill and Betfair, both large gambling firms, kept betting open for the match and reported no unusual activity.

Match-fixing fears have overshadowed the year's opening Grand Slam, with some players revealing bribery attempts including world number one Novak Djokovic, who said he was offered US$200,000 (S$285,900) to throw a match in 2007.

According to the BBC and BuzzFeed report, three Wimbledon matches were suspicious and at least eight of a "core group" of 16 players on the fixing radar were at the Australian Open.

The latest developments came as retired Australian player Nick Lindahl faced court in Sydney over allegations he offered to throw a match at a Futures tournament in 2013.