A major sports gambling website suspended betting on Sunday for a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open, raising suspicions of match fixing at one of the world's most prestigious tennis tournaments.
Ahead of a first-round match pitting Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero against Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot, large amounts of money poured in on what would normally be an obscure contest, said Marco Blume, head of sportsbook at the website, Pinnacle Sports, one of the largest and most influential betting websites in the world.
Nearly all of the money, Blume said, came down for Hlavackova and Kubot, which he said was an indication that the match might be fixed. Hlavackova and Kubot won, 6-0, 6-3. The first set lasted only 20 minutes.
Arruabarrena, the 33rd-ranked doubles player on the women's tour, and Marrero, ranked 32nd among men, rejected any possibility of fixing in an interview after the match. Marrero, who like Arruabarrena is from Spain, cited a knee injury in explaining their performance.
The suspicious gambling activity comes with the sport already under intense international scrutiny over possible match fixing.
Last week, at the start of the Australian Open, tennis officials were left scrambling when the BBC and BuzzFeed reported that 16 players were repeatedly flagged over suspicions that they had thrown matches but that officials did not discipline them.
The accusations in the report, which centered primarily on matches from several years ago, dominated the first several days of the tournament.
Tennis officials have emphasized that unusual betting patterns alone are not sufficient evidence of match fixing. It is possible, they have said, that someone close to the players could pass inside information — like knowledge of an injury — to professional gamblers, who would then wager accordingly.
A spokeswoman for the International Tennis Federation, the governing body for tennis's four Grand Slam events, said the organization had not been notified of any suspicious activity.