A French Open first-round qualifying match involving an Israeli tennis player was the subject of “checks” after a report of abnormally high bets placed abroad, according to a Thursday report in sports daily L’Equipe.
The tennis match in question took place on Monday between the 133rd-ranked Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles and Israeli veteran Dudi Sela, a 37-year-old now ranked 456th in the world, who was beaten 6-3, 6-0.
A source close to the investigation confirmed to AFP that the match was being probed, but no official investigation has been opened by the judicial authorities in France.
Abnormally high bets were recorded in three countries — Ukraine, Cyprus and Armenia — during the second set, which Sela lost in only 16 minutes, an unusually short time for a standard set, with the whole match itself lasting for only 56 minutes.
The French Open, also known as the Roland-Garros, is one of the four major tennis Grand Slam tournaments and is the premier championship played on a clay court.
Following the report, Sela released a statement denying that he was involved in any impropriety, and noted that as he had been recently injured, he was unlikely to beat his opponent.
“Anyone who has known me as a player and especially as a person, throughout my life and career, knows that the things published today are not only untrue, but there is no chance that I will be involved in such things. Betting on sports games in all disciplines exists in many places, and of course I have nothing to do with what is going on there,” Sela said in a statement.
“Anyone involved in the industry should easily understand that as a player who has not competed for a long time due to injuries, my chances of winning the game against a player ranked far above me were not high anyway, so it is puzzling that this kind of betting was needed at all,” Sela added.
“It saddens me that media outlets are thinking first of all about their ratings and are not afraid to damage the good name of a player, a person who has not been flawed in his conduct for decades. When I return to Israel, I will consult with my advisers on how to respond to this strange publicity,” he said.
Sela, who in 2009 achieved a career-high ranking of 29th in the world, famously quit mid-game at the 2017 Wuhan Open in China due to the imminent start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
Sela, who then was ranked 77 in the world, was down 1-0 in the third set of his quarter-final game with Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine. They split the first two sets 6-3 and 6-4.
Sela had asked for the match to be brought forward due to the fast day, but his request was reportedly denied and there was not enough time to complete the game. He withdrew and was knocked out of the tournament.
Sela forfeited $34,000 in prize money and the chance to win 90 ranking points.