Four months ago in a hotel room overlooking the landscaped gardens of the luxurious Dusit Thani hotel in Pattaya City, Thailand, Dmitry Avilov sat deep in thought for several hours, he recalls, nervously composing a message in Russian to Ekaterina Bychkova, a tennis player now ranked No. 169 on the WTA Tour.
Mr. Avilov, 25, who says he makes a modest living betting almost exclusively on women's tennis, had decided, for the first time, he says, to approach a player about fixing a match.
While Ms. Bychkova refused the overture and no money ever changed hands, Mr. Avilov's story highlights a growing concern among some coaches, officials and corruption experts: that lower-ranked tennis players are easy targets, especially with the rise of social-networking sites that make it simpler for strangers to contact them.
This winter, Mr. Avilov discovered Ms. Bychkova, another Russian player coached by her mother, kept a diary on Livejournal.com. He thought she might be interested in making some extra money -- in one blog entry she waxed poetic about a Louis Vuitton purse. In February, after registering for the site, he sent her a match-fixing proposal through a private message.
Both Mr. Avilov and Ms. Bychkova say Ms. Bychkova declined the proposal. She says she didn't tell anyone, including tennis officials, because she thought it would "sound really funny" to report someone she'd never met who contacted her through her blog. "I don't want to fix matches and will never do it," says Ms. Bychkova.