France questions Russian tennis player over suspected match-fixing

·3-min read
Yana Sizikova is being investigated over the suspected fixing of a doubles match last year

A Russian tennis player suspected of deliberately losing a doubles match at Roland Garros last season was released on Friday by French police who arrested her after she lost in this year's competition.

Yana Sizikova, 26, who is 101st in the women's doubles rankings, was detained by a special French unit on the grounds of the French Open, shortly before 9pm (1900 GMT) on Thursday, a police and legal source told AFP.

Le Parisien newspaper, which first reported the arrest, said that she was detained after she came out of her post-match massage. Her hotel room was also searched, it added.

Sizikova was released late on Friday without being charged, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

"The investigation is continuing," it said.

An investigation into possible sports corruption and organised fraud was opened last October over a first-round match in 2020 in which Sizikova and her American partner Madison Brengle lost to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.

Suspicions were aroused because of abnormally high betting activity on the match in countries outside France, which was reported to law enforcement, a source close to the case told AFP at the time.

One game in particular -- the fifth of the second set -- was being analysed by investigators after it featured two unusual double-faults by Sizikova who lost her serve to love.

On Thursday, Sizikova and her new partner Ekaterina Alexandrova lost in under an hour 1-6, 1-6 to Australian pair Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic in the first round of the women's doubles.

Sizikova, who lives between Russia and Spain, was competing at Roland Garros for the first time in 2020.

The amounts placed in bets on her game amounted to "tens of thousands of euros", a French source said in October.

The Global Lottery Monitoring System as well as the Group of Copenhagen, which brings together 33 national anti-sports corruption bodies, raised the alarm.

The president of the Russian tennis federation, Shamil Tarpichshev, said the case was "an old story".

"This story has been running since October. Until the documents (about Sizikova) are published, we can't do anything, we have to wait," he told TASS.

The player's lawyer in France, Frederic Belot, said: "Yana Sizikova had nothing to reproach herself for and intends to give all the necessary explanations to French investigators."

Belot said the "serious accusations" stemmed from "a slanderous article by an Italian tennis blogger" against which the player "intends to take legal action quickly for defamation and slander".

Professional tennis has been hit with match-fixing allegations in the past, but only relatively junior players competing at lower-tier tournaments have been banned or convicted.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) was created by the international governing bodies to investigate allegations against players and hand out sanctions.

In January this year, it announced lifetime bans against two low-ranking Russian women's doubles players, Sofia Dmitrieva and Alija Merdeeva, who were found to have been involved in match-fixing.

Sizikova is a doubles specialist with a current world singles ranking of 765.

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