Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wagering on Wimbledon

Really, who would bet on tennis?

Wagering on a Wimbledon match soared after a TV commentator pointed out one of the players is injured, an online bookmaker said Wednesday.

The British bookmaker, Betfair, alerted tennis corruption investigators about the unusual betting patterns for the first-round match Tuesday between 109th-ranked Wayne Odesnik of the United States and 30th-ranked Jurgen Melzer of Austria, but does not suspect any wrongdoing, spokesman Mark Davies said.

Davies said Betfair received more than six times as many wagers as it would normally receive for such a match. Melzer's odds "shortened significantly," Davies said, after a TV announcer noted shortly before the match that Odesnik has a thigh injury. Melzer won 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

Betfair received about $980,000 in wagers on the match, Davies said; the average for a first-round match at Wimbledon is less than $163,000.

"It's being reported as potential corruption, but I don't see it that way at all," Davies told The Associated Press. "I doubt that there was any wrongdoing."

Still, Betfair has reported the heavy betting to the International Tennis Federation's integrity unit.

Must be a Eurotrash thing. In this country, we have the "injury report" that comes out in the various sports. In Basketball, a player is either injured or he is not and there's very little room for doubt when the team walks out onto the floor and the player in question is wearing a suit and tie. In football, the idea that someone is "day to day" or "questionable" masks the problem of knowing what is really going on, hence the need for football handicappers and for some of the more hardcore betting speculation. In baseball, the stain of gambling has never been erased, so the 15 day disabled list becomes a legally binding document chiseled into marble. In the greatest sport, hockey, injuries are kept secret to deny an opponent an advantage. This is because, in hockey, the players are most vulnerable to exploitation of an existing injury.

Tennis is a game of mental challenges, not just physical challenges. A highly ranked and respected player with all the skill in the world can go to pieces like a diva in a dumptruck if their head is swirling with personal or political issues. Of more concern to a tennis bettor is the mental state of the players--and I suppose this would be true of golf as well. A person like myself, with an iron mind and an unshakeable faith, could not exist in the rarefied air of tennis or golf--the prima donna is queen of everything in those sports. I'd rather watch those sports than play them, actually.

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