Russian tennis player Yana Sizikova has been arrested at the French Open for questioning in a match-fixing investigation, casting a shadow over one of the sport’s top tournaments.
An official at the French Tennis Federation confirmed the arrest by French police and said a police inquiry was under way.
A player was arrested on Thursday night in connection with “acts likely to have been committed in September 2020”, the Paris prosecutor’s office told the Associated Press news agency. The allegations related to match-fixing, one person briefed on the matter told the Financial Times.
Sizikova was released on Friday, her lawyer, Frederic Belot, told Reuters.
Last September, French prosecutors opened an investigation into fraud in an “organised group” and “active and passive corruption” over alleged match-fixing in a women’s doubles match at the 2020 French Open.
The investigation related to a match between Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig, and Sizikova and American Madison Brengle. The Romanians won the match before being knocked out in the third round.
Belot explained that it was alleged that Sizikova and her doubles partner lost a service game on purpose, with the Russian serving double faults.
He added that Sizikova had contacted tennis authorities last year and that she provided them with an explanation, which he says “satisfied” them.
“It is therefore serenely and in the best possible state of mind that Yana Sizikova went to Paris a week ago to play in the 2021 French Open women’s doubles tournament,” said Belot.
“She and her father were extremely shocked when she was arrested.”
Sizikova, 26, is ranked 101st in the world in doubles and 765th in singles competition. Over the course of her career, she has won $206,617 in prize money, according to the Women’s Tennis Association.
She and her doubles partner were knocked out of the French Open in the first round on Thursday, losing in straight sets.
The International Tennis Integrity Agency, the sport’s anti-corruption watchdog, can obtain a provisional suspension once a player is charged, said a person close to that organisation. The body, set up by the sport’s governing bodies, has discussed the situation with French police, the person said.
In May, Kazakhstan tennis player Roman Khassanov was banned for 10 years after admitting breaches of anti-corruption rules. In January, the ITIA banned two Russian players for life after match-fixing investigations.
In 2016, Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s singles player, told of how he rejected an approach to lose a match on purpose when he was a teenager.
Tennis and football are the two sports most targeted by criminals, according to Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, which has warned that financial strains caused by the coronavirus pandemic in sport and the wider economy could increase the risk of corruption.
Last August, Europol warned of an increase in detected match-fixing schemes in tennis, with Eurasian organised crime groups “heavily involved” in the sport.
Evidence suggests that almost 500 tennis matches were the subject of manipulation between 2014 and 2018, according to the enforcement agency. Match fixers can try to rig the result of a match, an individual set, game or serve.
The arrest of Sizikova is the latest controversy to hit this year’s French Open, one of the four premier events in the sports. Earlier this week, the number two ranked Naomi Osaka withdrew from the event citing mental health issues following a row over press conferences.