June 13, 2024

Open Court


Trungelliti takes on the match-fixers

Remember Marco Trungelliti?

He’s the journeyman Argentine player whose road-trip odyssey from Spain to Roland Garros  – with his grandma in tow, no less – was one of the feel-good stories at the French Open last year.

A raft of late withdrawals because of the new “get half your prize money” rule meant that there were more lucky loser spots than players still in town to claim them.

And Trungelliti, who had lost in the final round of qualifying but, with a ranking of No. 190 and far down the list felt there was no shot, had gone back to Barcelona.

He made the 10-hour trip back. And then, he beat Bernard Tomic in the first round before losing to eventual semifinalist Marco Cecchinato. The 99,000 Euros he earned no doubt helped subsidize his entire year.

Well, it turns out he has quite a story to tell – one that went on for more than three years even through his great Roland Garros adventure.

And it’s comprehensively told in a story in La Nacion.

The newspaper got access to the Tennis Integrity Unit’s documents about the case.  

Please click on the link and give them the page views they deserve for their painstaking work on this. If your Spanish isn’t up to it, Google Translate does a decent job on this one.

Here’s a brief summary of the events, and the consequences.

Briefcases and envelopes full of cash

Trungelliti – who just turned 29 and currently is at a career-high No. 117 in the singles rankings, wasn’t in a great place four years ago.

He’d been out there grinding for eight years – rarely even getting out of South America. He had finally reached the point where he could squeeze into a couple of Grand Slam qualifying tournaments, but couldn’t make it. It looked like he was going to be a career Challenger player. 

And then, through a friend, a “guardian angel” contacted him on Facebook, asking to meet and saying he’d get him a sponsor to help him break that Challenger ceiling.

The two men he met outlined the match-fixing system they had in place. It included secret cell-phone calls and briefcases and envelopes of cash handed over personally.

They gave him eight names of players they had on the plan – from Argentina, and other countries as well.

(Click for the full story by Sebastian Torok in La Nación)

Reporting to the TIU

Trungelliti left for Europe. And with the help of a friend whose English was better, he alerted the TIU some six weeks later.

There were some contacts with the TIU at first. But nothing happened for two whole years.

As all this was happening, Trungelliti was still trying to compete in tournaments – and was very, very concerned that these guys (who knew where he lived) would retaliate in some way. In Argentina, that’s no irrational concern.

The match-fixers kept in touch. And the information Trungelliti was able to provide led to the investigations and suspensions of several players.

Those included countrymen Federico Coria, Nicolás Kicker and Patricio Heras. Trungelliti ended up having to testify in all three cases during the spring of 2018. That was something he was not prepared for. But he did it, via Skype from Barcelona. He was able to see the faces of the players on trial, at a location in Miami. And they were able to see him.

These three are among the bigger fish that the TIU has managed to nab. They were three viable players – not guys ranked outside the top 1,000 that no one had ever heard of, as is typically the case.

So if you thought that was the TIU doing an impressive investigative job, it turns out that it was all because of the Herculean efforts of one honest man.

And, in coming forward, Trungelliti was put through the wringer and also had to suffer a huge distraction – for three years – during which time he was struggling to establish his career.

A hero? Not to some fellow players

You’d think Trungelliti would be hailed for this by his fellow players, who surely want to keep the sport honest and clean, right?

Not so much.

According to the La Nación story, he was basically called a rat and a squealer. 

Harassment. Threats. Trungelliti and his wife moved from Barcelona to the tax-free haven of Andorra. They didn’t want to return to Argentina.

But of course, that is the job. Trungelliti makes his living on the dirt. And South America is where the ATP clay-court events are.

The 29-year-old was in Córdoba last week, and was in the qualifying of Buenos Aires this week.

No wild cards in Argentina

It’s probably unrelated, but the Argentine tournaments on the South American swing did him absolutely no favours.

Trungelliti was the highest-ranked Argentine not to get directly into Córdoba. The tournament gave a wild card to Juan Ignacio Londero, ranked just ahead of him and to 36-year-old Carlos Berlocq, a Buenos Aires native ranked some 20 spots behind him.

The third wild card went to a Brazilian teenager named Thiago Seyboth Wild, ranked No. 451.

In Buenos Aires this coming week, Trungelliti again was the highest-ranked Argentine not in the main draw.

One wild card went to David Ferrer. A second went to Canadian up-and-comer Félix Auger-Aliassime. The third went to a 20-year-old Argentine named Francisco Cerundolo who has no ATP ranking.

Cerundolo is a Buenos Aires native who won a pre-qualifying tournament in December to earn the spot.

Seeded in qualifying at both events, Trungelliti lost in the first round in both. Hardly surprising, given all that’s going on.

So he earned a total of $2,725 – and an untold amount of stress – during his trip home.

The irony? It’s entirely likely some of the betting scum lost money on Trungelliti, given he was the favorite in both those matches.

If anything, Trungelliti’s saga is a cautionary tale to any players tempted to turn in the bad guys.

You do the right thing, and it’s going to hang over you for years by the time the authorities get around to doing anything. And you’ll get threatened, for your extra pleasure.

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