Tennis player released from custody in match-fixing case

Sports
Yana Sizikova

Russian Yana Sizikova poses for a photo during the Winter Moscow Open 2021 tennis tournament in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. The Paris prosecutor’s office says a tennis player suspected of match-fixing last year has been arrested during the French Open. French newspaper Le Parisien reports that the player is 765th-ranked Yana Sizikova of Russia. The prosecutor’s office tells The Associated Press that a “women’s international player” was in custody but it did not identify her. The prosecutor’s office says the player was arrested Thursday, June 3, 2021 on charges of “sports bribery and organized fraud for acts likely to have been committed in September 2020.” (AP Photo/Alexander Bondarev)

PARIS (AP) — The Russian tennis player arrested on suspicion of match-fixing at last year’s French Open was released from police custody on Friday, judicial officials told The Associated Press.

Yana Sizikova, who was arrested Thursday in Paris after competing in a French Open doubles match, was not formally charged after questioning but remains under investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The 26-year-old Sizikova denies the allegations, according to her lawyer, Frederic Belot. He told the AP that Sizikova wants to file a complaint for defamation.

The prosecutor’s office said Sizikova was arrested for “sports bribery and organized fraud for acts likely to have been committed in September 2020.”

The case was opened last October by a French police unit specializing in betting fraud and match-fixing. It has previously worked with Belgian authorities investigating suspect matches at the lower levels of professional tennis.

The French tennis federation said it could not provide further information because the investigation is ongoing.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency, which investigates match-fixing in the sport, declined to comment on the details of the case but said in a message to the AP that “there has been ongoing liaison between the ITIA and law enforcement in France.”

Speaking to the AP in a phone interview, her lawyer said Sizikova was “extremely shocked.”

“She was placed in custody like a criminal. She says she is innocent and did not want me to assist her during her questioning because she considers herself like a victim,” Belot said.

Belot said he only started representing Sizikova on Friday after he was approached by the player’s parents. He said Sizikova had contacted the ITIA when the case was opened last year to deny any wrongdoing.

The prosecutor’s office said the probe centered on suspicions about one match at Roland Garros last year. It did not specify the match. German newspaper Die Welt and French sports daily L’Equipe said at the time there were suspicious betting patterns in the first round of a women’s doubles match on Sept. 30.

On that day, Sizikova and partner Madison Brengle of the United States played on Court No. 10 against Romanian players Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig. Sizikova was broken to love serving in the fifth game of the second set, during which she double-faulted twice.

Le Parisien reported Friday that tens of thousands of euros (dollars) were bet with several operators in different countries on the Romanian players winning that game.

The newspaper said Sizikova, who is ranked 101st in doubles and 765th in singles, was arrested Thursday after losing in the first round of the doubles tournament at Roland Garros. The newspaper said authorities searched Sizikova’s hotel room.

Last year’s French Open, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, was played in late September and early October.

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AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf in Rome and James Ellingworth in Dusseldorf, Germany, contributed to this report.

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