Not all of this week’s ATP tennis bets will unfold at the Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo.
Rolex sponsors the “Gem of the Mediterranian” on sun-soaked red clay with a payout of about $5.9 million in US dollars. That’s enticing enough to draw stars like Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In purse, tour points and stature, only the Grand Slams can top the appeal of a Masters 1000 tournament.
The 56-player field doesn’t leave much room for players outside the top 100, though. While the top players chase that big payday in Europe, the ATP Challenger Series draws feature up-and-comers and fading contenders alike.
It’s also a relatively new tennis bet in the Hawkeye State. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) added Challenger tennis matches as an approved wager on Jan. 28.
Sportsbooks and the sport of tennis have to keep a close eye on betting patterns and player performance at the Challenger level, however.
The catch-22 of tennis bets
Pro tennis isn’t for the faint of heart because of a catch-22: Players like Jack Draper of Great Britain and Quentin Halys of France need a support team to be great — but they have to be great in order to afford a support team.
Use this week as an example. Players left outside the gates of Monte Carlo had four Challenger tournaments to choose from. Keep in mind, the Challenger payouts listed at the ATP official website are total prize money — not just what the champions in singles and doubles take home:
- Sarasota, FL — $106,240 in total prize money
- Barletta, Italy — $49,735 (est. Euros to USD)
- Madrid, Spain — $49,735 (est. Euros to USD)
- and San Luis Potosi, Mexico — $53,120
Combined, the Challenger amounts add up to less than 5% of the Monte Carlo purse. Sponsorships and national governing bodies can help players build a ranking and scratch out a living.
But, unfortunately, a handful of lower-tier players find ways to profit beyond prize money. The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) steps in when they suspect gambling has influenced the outcome of a match.
Unchecked, corruption can creep in
“Tennis you can trust” is the tagline at the ITIA home page. It has drop-down menu options for both anti-corruption and anti-doping.
Just three weeks before the IRGC approved Challenger tennis bets for Iowa, the ITIA had to take steps to make sure those future Iowa bets would be safe.
- Nicolás Arreche of Argentina received a four-year ban and $8,000 fine from the ITIA on Jan. 6. He was found “guilty of breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP) rules.” Between 2017 and 2019, Arreche “contrived or attempted to contrive” match outcomes. Arreche also didn’t warn tennis investigators when he was approached about altering matches to secure winning bets. He peaked at No. 567 in the world
- A day later, Mauricio Echazu of Peru received a two-year ban. The No. 379 player in the world admitted to “having contrived or attempted to contrive the outcome of a tennis match and receiving money to impact the result of a match.” Like Arreche, Echazu can’t play in — or even attend — a sanctioned pro tennis tournament during the ban.
Altogether, the ITIA lists 59 people with suspensions due to corruption findings. And 33 of the players have lifetime bans.
The ITIA investigates when someone within the sport raises match-fixing concerns. The sports betting industry also alerts tennis officials if it spots unusual betting patterns.
Players, agents, coaches and officials have to make themselves available for interviews as part of any investigation.
Grand Slams aren’t immune to scandal. Paris investigators arrested Yana Sizikova (pictured) at the 2021 French Open. The 765th-ranked Russian may have fixed matches in September 2020.