Armenian match fixer who masterminded the biggest illegal betting ring in tennis and ‘made $9m in just two years’ before being jailed says he is ‘proud’ of corrupting more than 180 players and paying them to throw matches
An Armenian match fixer, nicknamed the Maestro, who masterminded the biggest illegal gambling ring in tennis, has said he takes “pride” of corrupting more than 180 players and paying hundreds of matches.
Over several years, Grigor Sargsyan, an Armenian immigrant to Belgium with no tennis background, turned his $350 savings into millions. He supposedly considered himself the “Robin Hood” of the sport after building a web of players from all over the world (including some from the United States) and convincing them to fix matches.
He was recently sentenced to five years in prison in Belgium after a SWAT team arrested him at his parents’ house after an extensive investigation.
Tennis authorities issued a series of lifetime bans and suspensions after Sargsyan’s network was discovered. It was described as ‘onone of the largest match-fixing files that have ever surfaced in the world’, but just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.
An Armenian match fixer convinced more than 180 players to organize hundreds of matches
“[The]largest in size, largest in money, and largest in number of fixed matches and number of players involved,” prosecutors said. ‘More than 181 tennis players are participating; it concerns more than 375 matches.’
According to a Washington Post surveyplayers, usually from the lower rungs of the sport, agreed to throw points, games, or sets for money. His network of associates would then profit by betting on the outcome.
Sometimes, it is alleged, both players would work for Sargsyan in a match. His winnings — which amounted to at least $9 million in just two years — ended up in bank accounts linked to a man who apparently worked behind bars at the prison. Armenia.
Sargsyan allegedly worked on behalf of a transnational criminal syndicate in Armenia. In tennis circles he was known as the Maestro, Gregory, Greg, GG, TonTon and Ragnar, to the Viking warrior.
While in prison, the fixer read Crime and Punishment of Fyodor Dostoevsky. ‘Frankly, it made me proud,” he told The Post. “It was my whole life,” said the 33-year-old.
Sargsyan reportedly targeted those struggling to pay the cost of their lives on the Futures and Challenger Tours. Among them was Younes Rachidi, who had committed 135 match-fixing offenses in less than ten months – a record. He was banned from the sport for life earlier this year, but was not charged with any criminal charges.
“It’s like doubling your money. It feels perfect, and no one knows,” Rachidi told the Post. “You think, ‘Is that it?’ The whole world is pink.’
French player Yannick Thivant, who reached a career-high ranking of 590, reportedly received more than $50,000. He was one of four players taken into French custody in 2019. So far none of them have been charged.
Sargsyan, whose family moved to Brussels at the age of nine, was a 24-year-old law student when he fixed his first match in 2014.
“It’s like doubling your money. It feels perfect, and no one knows,” one player said of the fix
He convinced a young player from Latin America to lose the second set of his match 6–0. It’s been said Sargsyan earned almost $4,000 and paid the player about $600. “It was an incredible feeling,” he told the Post.
Soon, it is claimed, he was treating players to posh restaurants and driving them around in his Jaguar. He bought one player’s diamond engagement ring. He occasionally overpaid players, it is said.
Sargsyan led a double life all along, even working with his parents in a delicatessen to avoid detection.
Gambling regulators now reportedly consider tennis “the most manipulated sport in the world.” Sargsyan “put the finger on weakness” when he realized that anyone can gamble on thousands of obscure matches in the backwaters of the sport.
Forty players have been banned or suspended for match fixing since 2022.
They would intentionally double foul or miss easy shots; some athletes reportedly played off Sargsyan against other match fixers on the track.
Sebastian Rivera, a Chilean coach based in the United States, was accused of recruiting players for Sargsyan. He had gotten a job with Sean Bollettieri-Abdali, the son of iconic coach Nick Bollettieri, in California.
Bollettieri Sr coached Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams and Boris Becker. Rivera was tasked with training some of the program’s top candidates. There is no indication that he or his son did anything wrong.
U.S. authorities questioned Rivera, but the case ended there. Eight tennis players living in the US have been named by Belgian authorities as part of Sargsyan’s network.
The web began to close on Sargsyan after an Egyptian player Karim Hossam aroused suspicion and was asked to hand over his phone to tennis match fixing researchers. Hossam was later suspended for life, but was not prosecuted.