May 25, 2020

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Lifetime match-fixing ban for Youssef Hossam, 21

21-year old Egyptian ranked 820 ATP singles committed 21 breaches of anti-corruption rules

Egyptian tennis player Youssef Hossam, a 21-year-old who was once ranked as high as No. 8 in the juniors and No. 291 in the ATP Tour lists, has been banned from professional tennis for life.

Following a provisional ban announced on July 31, 2019 (backdated to May 9, when he was No. 410 ATP and No. 78 in the ITF rankings), the case was heard March 9-11, 2020 in London, and the decision handed down Monday.

Over a four-year period, dating back to when he was just 16 or 17, Hossam was found to have “conspired with other parties to carry out an extensive campaign of betting-related corruption at the lower levels of professional tennis.”

In all, there were 21 breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption program:

  • eight cases of match-fixing
  • six cases of facilitating gambling
  • two cases of soliciting other players not to use best efforts
  • three failures to report corrupt approaches
  • two failures to co-operate with a TIU investigation

The saddest part of this – beyond how young he was when this all started? His older brother Karim, who now 26, was banned for life by the TIU in July, 2018 for a similar slate of major transgressions.

The elder Hossam’s offences, a total of 16 on a total of 47 breaches of the Integrity Unit’s rules, came between 2013 and 2017.

The total amount of the payments in the offences for which he paid with a lifetime ban from the game were … $6,500. According to the documents, he wasn’t even represented by a lawyer at the hearings, instead representing himself.

The BBC did an in-depth look into how it all went down for Karim Hossam.

In an extended feature on the Sports360 website about Youssef Hossam when he reached the third round of the Australian Open in juniors in 2016 – when he was a top-20 junior in the world – he was asked why his brother had never quite made it.

Here’s what he said:

“When he finished playing juniors, he was excited to start playing ITF Futures and did really well at the start but he kept playing Futures and didn’t get out of it. It felt good to win so many titles at that level and didn’t step up to the Challenger Tour. I don’t want to fall into that trap,” he told Sports360.

As it turns out, he fell into the same trap.

Hossam’s tennis career began with much promise. He reached a career best of No. 8 in the ITF juniors rankings, in April, 2016. He reached the third round of singles at both the Australian and US Opens that year, and the quarterfinals in doubles at both the French Open and Wimbledon.

That year, he represented Egypt in Davis Cup, and got to play at the Monte Carlo Country Club under the eye of Prince Rainier. He went 9-2 overall representing his country.

He played 10 tournaments at the Challenger level, and among his wins was a three-set victory over Moldovan veteran Radu Albot (then ranked No. 101, but later the winner at the ATP Tour stop in Delray Beach).

During multiple weeks between Oct. 2017 and Feb. 2018, he broke into the top 300 in singles.

But even during the period when he was still a junior, and the match-fixing reportedly began, Hossam was on the look for sponsors to make his dream come true.

It’s a cautionary tale. In the piece, Hossam is referred to as hailing from a well-to-do family in Cairo, and driving a Jaguar. His father, according to that story, owns a large furnishings company. So you’d think there would have been other more ethical – and better – options for him in life.

And yet, both he and his brother fell into the match-fixing trap, from where the end game, if caught, leads to the abrupt end to that dream. You’d have to think there’s a great documentary or feature piece on the scene in that country.

Hossam starred in a series of tennis drill video done by the Mouratoglou Academy and trained there on an occasional basis.