September 29, 2023

Open Court


Another potential Italian match-fixing scandal brewing

Italian veterans Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace could be in the middle of a second match-fixing scandal, this one potentially far more serious than their 2007 suspensions and fines for betting small amounts on tennis matches.

No doubt many more details on this will emerge in the coming days, but the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that a prosecutor in Cremona, Roberto di Martino, is examining some 111 suspicious Skype chats where match-fixing was discussed. Most of them are Serie A soccer matches. But some of them are tennis matches. And not all the players involved are Italian.

(The story in its original Italian is here; our Italian is functional, not fluent, so we’ve reproduced here only some small sections we’re confident we understood  correctly).

As fate would have it, Bracciali and Starace are teamed up for doubles this week in Moscow. They are scheduled to play their first round on Wednesday, against (as fate would have it), Alexander Satschko of Germany and Canadian Adil Shamasdin.

The story alleges that a noted Bologna gambler, Manlio Bruni, reportedly had a Skype chat in July, 2007 with “Braccio78”, reported to be current doubles specialist Daniele Bracciali (Bracciali, currently ranked No. 56 in doubles, was born in 1978).

There was discussion of a 50,000 Euro payoff, and of Bracciali having to be up a set and a break (before, presumably, losing) in a first-round singles match on grass in Newport against the American Scoville Jenkins.

Bracciali reportedly declined, deciding to play it “normal” (he lost, 6-2, 6-1). During a subsequent Skype chat in September, Bracciali reportedly expressed concern after countryman Alessio di Mauro received a nine-month suspension and a €40,000 fine for betting. It was the first suspension under the ATP’s new anti-corruption rules, and it was determined that none of di Mauro’s wagers were on his own matches.

Three months later, both Bracciali and Starace received suspension and fines (six weeks and $30,000 for Starace, at the time Italy’s top singles player, and three months and $20,000 for Bracciali). The total amount of 2005 bets Starace was charged with making was about 90 euros; for Bracciali, it was 50 five-euro bets in 2004 and 2005.

At the time, Bracciali and Starace said they were made the scapegoats for a far more extensive operation. The Italian tennis federation said the players hadn’t bet on their own matches, didn’t know about the ATP’s rules against betting and stopped as soon as they were informed.

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As for Starace, the Gazzetta dello Sport story outlines a Skype chat that occurred in April, 2011, shortly before Starace’s singles final in Casablanca against the Spaniard Pablo Andujar. The conversation is reportedly between a noted bookie, and someone with the Skype name of “soldatomercemnario11“, and seemingly confirms payment was made to Starace to lose the Casablanca match.

To that point, between Challengers and ATP Tour events, Starace held a 5-0 head-to-head record against Andujar with all of the meetings, like the Casablanca final, played on clay.

Starace lost, 6-1, 6-2.

As Italian media sources go, this one would probably be the most reputable. If it’s true, this certainly is very, very bad news for the two players, who are 36 and 33 years old, respectively. And bad for tennis.

(Tip of the Twitter cap to @Ubitennis, who is Tweeting about this tonight).

The Associated Press had this story about the situation this morning, in which the prosecutor confirmed the accusations.

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