Match Fixing Hard to Spot, Prompting Tennis Association to Publish List of “Probable Signs”; Russian Mobsters Occupying a Player’s Box Tops List
Best known for bribing the judges of the figure skating competition of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov has taken a fancy to tennis. The notorious mobster is said to boast punishing groundstokes and a somewhat erratic on-court disposition, having more than once decapitated an opponent with a nasty slice backhand.
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) — From Russia with thinly veiled threats and severed body parts, comes a scandal that’s rocked professional men’s tennis. At least a dozen ranked players on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tour have said they have been approached to throw matches. Players have come forward in light of the investigation of Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko, the world’s No. 4 player, due to suspicious betting patterns during a match he lost in Poland over the summer. Thus far, the investigation has centered on gambling interests with ties to Russian mobsters.
“Tennis is a very easy game to manipulate,” said Patrick McEnroe, the captain of the United States Davis Cup team. “I can throw a match and you’d never know. A trained eye can figure it out, especially one that can read Chekhov or order borscht in the original Russian.”
With the help of a former KGB official, the ATP has compiled a wide-ranging list that includes a number of subtle, virtually undetectable “tells” which can greatly influence a match’s outcome. A player can dramatically alter his string tension, which can produce erratic shot-making, or he can intentionally fall into an established serving pattern, improving an opponent’s returns. He can fail to produce a banana at any point in the match, indicating his intention to induce cramping, or he can take nighttime cold medicine and fall fast asleep during a change-over. Other signs are less subtle, if you know what to look for:
- Carousing with notorious wild man Marat Safin and returning to your hotel hours before the morning’s match is a sure sign that you’ve, a). been “turned” and, b). the bimbos providing room service were of the highest quality.
- Interrupting pre-match interviews to sing the unsolicited praises of Russian strongman Vladmir Putin – particularly if you’re from a former Soviet republic that is now a smoking crater thanks to Mr. Putin.
- Moving your training facility from, say, Monaco, to Belarus.
- A player is found pillaging villages and raping peasants in the company of marauding Cossacks.
- A severed hand holding a dead cod in a semi-Western grip tumbles from a player’s locker.
- Vassilly, Sergei and Yvgeny round out a non-Russian’s “five.” And his sponsors now include Babolat, Gatorade and Aeroflot.
“Russian mobsters have infiltrated game at all levels – in fact, mobsters are starting to prey on Junior circuit, which is not easy to crack,” said former KGB spymaster Dmitri Simes. “But once you separate kid from parents, all it takes is free iPod or game console. Trick is getting repeat business – once kid tanks he can expect weeks of abuse from crazy tennis parents who typically work four jobs just to pay for training, travel and family counseling. Once you get reamed by psycho tennis mom, 300 lb Russian gangster threatening to give permanent tennis elbow seems not so scary.”
To date, no woman player has reported being approached, “with exception of Maria Sharapova,” adds Simes, “who was approached by a 13 year old Junior from St. Petersburg asking for autographed pair of sports panties. Naturally she decline. Next day she open locker and out falls severed breast with Penn 2 written across. Maria got message, found out kid’s mailing address and had pair of panties sent overnight. I haven’t seen kid play, but you’ve got to like his game.”
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