Richard Bloomfield would rather no one had bet on his
opening match at this year's Wimbledon tournament. The unheralded
British player defeated Carlos Berlocq of Argentina on Tuesday only
to find his achievement overshadowed by a gambling scandal.
Richard Bloomfield: a controversial first senior-level
Pre-match punters had piled onto Bloomfield, taking
his odds to 10/1 on. When Berlocq lost in straight sets, the
bookmakers alerted the tennis authorities.
The whole affair seems something of a storm in a
Pimm's cup, and yesterday assorted officials at Wimbledon occupied
themselves directing inquires down assorted culs-de-sac.
Those seeking a response from the Lawn Tennis
Association were pointed in the direction of the All England Club,
whence they were referred to the International Tennis Federation,
whose spokesperson emerged from a lengthy meeting to say that he
wasn't going to say anything. Betfair, the exchange which revealed
the unusual scale of the wagers on Bloomfield, didn't bother with
elaborate obfuscation. They said: "No comment."
In the absence of official reaction, people fell back
on that Wimbledon staple, idol gossip. No one was for a moment
suggesting that either player had been involved in anything
sinister, and the most convincing argument for the total incident of
Berlocq went as follows: if you were going to throw a match, would
you do so against a lowly Brit at Wimbledon? Someone might be
expected to notice.
The most likely scenario to emerge from the
Millennium building rumour mill yesterday was that friends of
friends of Senor Berlocq heard that he had a bit of a dodgy ankle,
noted that his form on grass was not up to much and decided to have
a bit of a tickle. Alert gamblers noticed the odds on the move and
piled in. Cue media frenzy.
The whole palaver has raised the profile of
Bloomfield to near mythic levels. Previously a household name only
in his own Bristol residence, the British No 7 is now sufficiently
well known to be fair game for Celebrity Big Brother or the cover of
More seriously, the fuss has undermined the value of
Bloomfield's first win not only at a grand slam tournament, but in
any senior-level Tour match. Such a victory, in his third appearance
at Wimbledon, should have filled him with confidence, which the
controversy over the match can only have diminished.
Bloomfield will have needed all the confidence he
could get ahead of his next contest, but while a crocked unknown
Argentine may not have provided much competition, a fit Tommy Haas
is a different proposition altogether. The German veteran is the
finest male player to come out of Nick Bollettieri's Florida Academy
since Andre Agassi, but a habit of acquiring injuries has blighted
his career. He has broken both ankles, had a dodgy hip, has
undergone extensive shoulder surgery and last year had to retire
from his first-round match here when he sprained his ankle by
stepping on a ball.
If Bloomfield was looking for a lucky break, medical
history alone suggested that Haas might be the man to provide it.
Sadly for the patriotic fans who crammed into Court 13's miniature
grandstand when the match commenced in bright evening sunshine, Haas
appeared to be in rude health. Thwacking down aces and fashioning
delightful passing shots, the German rattled off the first three
games before Bloomfield had worked out which way to hold his
Gradually, though, the Bristolian relaxed and,
encouraged by the crowd, began to send down aces and passes of his
own. Generally he looked quite comfortable in the elevated
Bloomfield's mission last night was to prove that his
first-round victory had been no fluke, to show that the controversy,
for which he was blameless, was a distraction from the qualities
that he brings to the court.
Haas led by two sets to love, 6-3, 6-4, and 2-2 in
the third when play was abandoned for the night, but Bloomfield will
have benefited from his extraordinary Wimbledon experience. You can
bet on that.