June 22, 2021

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Report: Roland Garros doubles player detained over over 2020 match-fixing suspicions (updated)

Sizikova

Yana Sizikova on the clay earlier this spring. (Sizikova's Instagram)

It wasn’t as though the accusation of potential match-fixing behaviour levied against Russian doubles specialist Yana Sizikova was news.

There was plenty of discussion about it when the incident allegedly occurred last October during the 2020 fall edition of Roland Garros.

But according to Le Parisien, in a story published online Friday morning, Sizikova was headed off by officers from Paris’s central gaming and racing body Thursday night. Sizikova was coming out of a massage session after a first-round loss when she taken into custody at the SCCJ’s facilities.

The Reuters news agency confirmed this through its sources Friday.

The national gaming authority is under the aegis of the French national police.

Sizikova and partner Ekaterina Alexandrova had been comprehensively beaten by the Aussie pair of Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-1, 6-1

According to the newspaper, Sizikova’s hotel room was searched.

UPDATE: L’Équipe reports that Sizikova was released Friday evening. But the investigation is ongoing.

First-round doubles match at RG 2020 suspected

The question to be asked, of course, is why a player would be allowed to enter Roland Garros in the first place.

It appears she was the subject of an ongoing, months-long investigation for “organized fraud” and for “active and passive sports corruption” at the very same tournament.

Presumption of innocence would appear to be the basis.

Also – what they thought they would find, eight months later, in her hotel room.

And the fact that she was in France was the opportunity to bring her in.

(Sizikova was in France less than a month ago, playing the 125K in Saint-Malo. But Saint-Malo is about a four-hour drive from the gaming body’s headquarters in Nanterre, which is a suburb of Paris).

Two double faults – game to the Romanians

Last Sept. 30, Sizikova and partner Madison Brengle faced the Romanian team of Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig in the first round.

The Romanians won the match. But the sticky part reportedly came in the fifth game of the second set. And the details of it show you why it’s so very hard to prove these allegations.

Betting on tennis doesn’t just involve wagering on the outcome of a match. It can be on each game – or even on the next point. 

In this particular game Sizikova, who was serving, double-faulted twice and slipped on a third point. As it happened, there reportedly was an unusually large amount wagered on the Romanians to win this particular game.

Which, obviously, they did. And the providers reported the suspicious betting patterns.

In subsequent days, there were reports in the German media Die Welt, the basics of which were confirmed by the French sports newspaper L’Équipe.

But only eight months later has there actually been action.

If the authorities were waiting for Sizikova to return to Roland Garros, they might well have picked her up for questioning after a practice session before the tournament, rather than in such seemingly dramatic fashion after her first-round exit.

Career earnings just over $200,000

Sizikova, 26, has been competing at the pro level for more than a decade.

She is currently at No. 101 in doubles, down about a dozen sports from a career high of No. 89. Sizikova reached that the very week before tennis stopped because of the pandemic in March 2020.

Her earnings in 2021 so far were $23,914 US. And nearly half of that came in one match, a first-round loss in the Australian Open women’s doubles with Alexandrova.

When she arrived in Paris, Sizikova’s career earnings stood at $206,617 US. 

It’s not difficult to do the math there. The average earnings per year are less than $20,000. When you factor in all the travel and other expenses, it’s easy to see that it’s a challenge to make ends meet. Sizikova is hardly alone in that; she’s the norm rather than the exception.

The Russian has already played with seven different doubles partners this season, most regularly with Alexandrova (who was seeded in singles at Roland Garros this year) when she played on the top circuit.

In the juniors, she was a top-100 player (No. 84 was her career high in the ITF rankings) who played the juniors for 3 1/2 years, got to the top-level events in the end, but didn’t particularly distinguish herself.

We’ll see how this story evolves.