By Michael Mewshaw
I’m in Rome and the newspapers are full of articles about Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace finally having been found guilty of fixing matches for payoffs from gamblers. In a sense this is old news. They were found guilty of these offenses several years back, but after being banned for life they got their sentences reduced by an Italian court. Now the TIU has put an end to their careers. In fact Starace had long since retired but Bracciali has been playing doubles on the ATP tour, including the French Open and Wimbledon. Indeed, he was scheduled to play this week in a Challenger here in Italy.
Why it’s taken so long to bring this affair to closure (assuming it is closed; Bracciali is appealing) is a salient question. Surely the TIU has to begin moving faster and more forcefully. The Italian newspapers indicate that the TIU is now taking a second look at Marco Cecchinato, who was banned for match-fixing, then somehow on a technicality wangled his way back onto the tour, reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 French Open. Bracciali, by the way, during his brief comeback, won the doubles title at Kitzbühel. This shows as nothing else does how imperative it is to move on these matters more expeditiously. No sport can afford to have convicted match fixers contending for Grand Slam titles.
Nor can it afford to have players convicted of match-fixing or accused on good authority of consorting with gamblers hanging around at tournaments. TIU bans are supposed to not just prevent guilty players from participating in events, but even from attending tournaments. Interestingly, last year at the French Open while Cecchinato was playing in singles and Bracciali was playing in doubles, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was participating in the Veteran’s event. Examined with a jaundiced eye, this adds up to a kind of cruel hat trick. Kafelnikov was recently identified as player B in the TIU report on corruption, i.e. player B was someone who was allowed to retire in 2003 with match-fixing and gambling charges pending against him.
While the TIU is said to be looking into Cecchinato’s case, one wonders when a decision will be made on the allegations of match-fixing against Dolgopolov two years ago at the ATP tournament in Winston-Salem, and against Fernando Verdasco and his doubles partner at last year’s Wimbledon. Are we going to have to wait seven years for a verdict?