“Unusual” Wimbledon betting alerts suspicion

An online bookmaker has been forced to report a case of dubious betting to tennis authorities – after a flood of wagers appeared to back Tim Henman to remain at the tournament into the second week.

Betfair said the flood of betting on the Englishman that occurred during his commentary stint on the match between Austrian number 26 seed Juergen Melzer and American Wayne Odesnik was “unusual”.

There is no suggestion of foul play yet, but the company was forced to inform the Tennis Integrity Unit (yes, there really is), which is expected to listen to his entire commentary in order to determine whether the speech patterns were sinister or simply reflected fans’ indifference to the importance of the overall result.

Betfair’s Mark Davies told Radio 4: “We have never before seen such a rush of betting on one particular commentator during the course of a single game, especially in this instance where the commentator in question is such an unfancied outsider. Don’t get me wrong, Henman’s charm and warmth on the microphone come across well, but is it enough to carry him through against the more robust technical knowledge of guys like McCenroe and Becker?

“It did look quite suspicious at one point when he slipped up during a routine description of Juergen Melzer’s unconventional serve. Not many commentators would make such a mistake, especially in the opening round. There were quite a few posts about it on our forum, as many people found it strange how he appeared to crack when seemingly under no pressure whatsoever. They speculated that it was a deliberate ploy to encourage a flood of betting, which of course it did. It was shortly after this that we decided to alert the TIU.”

The TIU will meet towards the end of the week to discuss their findings. If Henman is found guilty of wrongdoing he could face disciplinary procedures including a fine of 50% of his match fee and a possible commentary ban of up to 12 months.

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