The fixer, the cheat and the corruption crisis in global tennis

Nicolás Kicker arrived in Paris in top form. The 25-year-old Argentine was an outsider’s bet to go deep into the draw of the French Open, one of tennis’s four Grand Slam events. He’d recently reached the third round of the Australian Open, earning just over US$100,000 in prize money. He finally no longer relied on his parents to support him. A few more wins would put him on course to break into the game’s top 30 players globally, his dream since adolescence. It was May 2018, and Kicker was ranked world number 84.

On the Thursday before the tournament began, Kicker was practising on the red clay courts of Stade Roland-Garros. He thwacked the ball with his signature power and precision while his parents and young son, Bastian, watched courtside. But his excitement about the coming contest was overtaken by a growing sense of dread. Twenty-four hours earlier, he’d been found guilty of match-fixing, following a three-year investigation. As was typical at the time, he’d been allowed to continue playing while he awaited a decision on whether or not he’d be sanctioned. Kicker had no idea what was going to happen or when.

That afternoon, he received a phone call in his hotel room. On the end of the line was an agent from the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), as the sport’s corruption watchdog was then known, who rescinded Kicker’s invitation to Roland-Garros. He was being banned from competing in, or even attending, any professional tennis event indefinitely. He would receive the full details of his sentence in due course, the agent told him tersely. He was stunned.

Kicker’s transgressions included failing to report a corrupt approach and deliberately losing two matches for financial gain in 2015. He’d also failed to co-operate with investigators from the TIU. Kicker was the highest-ranking player to be sanctioned for match-fixing in the history of the anti-fraud body, which had been criticised for failing to police the game’s highest levels. For more than a decade, tennis has been struggling with a corruption epidemic fuelled by the sport’s brutal economics, the boom in online gambling and the influence of organised crime. Tennis, an independent review undertaken a few years ago found, is responsible for “more suspicious betting than any other sport”.

In his Paris hotel room, Kicker hung up the phone. He might have thought back to the matches in 2015 and the distressing events that had preceded them, about the day the diminutive British detective had shown up in Buenos Aires with a few routine questions and about all the mistakes he’d made trying to outrun her.

Meanwhile, the tennis world began to ask why Kicker’s name was absent from the draw. Embarrassed, he told friends he’d rolled an ankle and had to pull out. But a few hours later, news of his suspension was being broadcast globally. On the recommendation of his lawyer, who wanted to appeal the suspension, Kicker stayed in Paris for 10 miserable days. While he waited, he took Bastian to Disneyland on the outskirts of the French capital, knowing he wouldn’t be recognised amid the throng of tourists. He spent the entire time wondering when, or if, he’d ever play competitive tennis again.


Kicker was born to a middle-class family near Buenos Aires in 1992. He grew up with three sisters in a house a short walk from Kicker Klub Haus, a sports facility operated by his father, Ricardo. A veteran tennis coach, Ricardo recognised in his son a competitive streak he could shape. By the age of 14, Kicker was training for up to six hours a day and attending school in the evening.

Kicker’s style of play was unusual. He used a one-handed backhand, rather than two, because it looked elegant but also came more naturally. (Roger Federer plays similarly.) He was able to grind down his opponents because he was fitter and fought for every ball. Whereas some players would win the point with two shots, Kicker would use five. “Nicolás has always been very intense,” Ricardo told me. “He’s a natural warrior.”

Nicolás Kicker
‘For as long as there’s a financial incentive and an opportunity to fix matches, there will probably be stories like Kicker’s’ © Matej Jurčević

As part of a talented generation of Argentine tennis players that includes Diego Schwartzman and Andrea Collarini, Kicker initially struggled to make an impression in national tournaments in his age group. But by the time he was 18, he’d established himself on the Future Pro-Circuit tour, the gateway to global professional tennis. Every elite player comes through the Futures, now known as the World Tennis Tour.

These events, organised by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), often take place in local tennis clubs and holiday resorts during the low season, partly to help fill hotel rooms, and they can be unglamorous. One tournament Kicker played in early in his career was suspended after another player broke his ankle tripping on a patch of weeds on the court.

Like most minor leagues, there’s little money to be made on the World Tennis Tour. The total pot is $15,000 or $25,000 at the lowest levels, which is much less than the £50,000 a first-round loser will receive at Wimbledon. But the winner of a $15,000 men’s singles event will pocket only about $2,160. Only the tournament winner is likely to break even when you factor in the cost of travel, accommodation, food and coaching.

Kicker’s family funded his early career. To pay for his son’s tournament entry fees, Ricardo took on extra coaching hours at his club, working 12-hour days. He drove his son to nearby tournaments. For further-flung events, Kicker relied on public transport, once taking a 36-hour bus ride home from a competition in Brazil.

Kicker continued to live with his parents even after he fell in love, in 2010, with a woman named Florencia, who later moved in with the family. He scoured the internet for second-hand deals on his preferred model of racket. Instead of paying someone to string them, he bought a machine to do it himself, which he took in his suitcase wherever he played. To offset its weight, Kicker carried fewer clothes, fewer health supplements, fewer supplies, fewer everything. Even with excess luggage costs, it was cheaper for Kicker to take the stringer.

In early 2012, Florencia and Kicker discovered she was pregnant. He was 19 years old, and his tennis career was beginning to gain momentum. When they had the baby in November, they named him Bastian after a German footballer. To deal with his growing anxiety, Kicker began seeing a professional psychologist who specialised in treating athletes. She encouraged him to see playing tennis as a profession, as work to sustain his family.

Kicker’s career got another boost when he met Juan Pablo Brzezicki, a former top 100 player whom he’d grown up watching on television. In 2012, Brzezicki invited him to train at his academy in Buenos Aires and became his full-time coach. “Nicolás was ranked 900 in the world when I met him, but he had the raw talent required of a top player,” says Brzezicki. “Principally, he was physically very strong, flexible and explosive. He hit the ball so hard.” Brzezicki also admired Kicker’s work ethic; he’d rarely seen anyone train harder.

With Brzezicki’s guidance, Kicker’s game developed. So, too, did his understanding of the nuances of arranging his tournament schedule and of strategy before, during and after the match. Still, his reality was different from that of most other players. At local tournaments, his son’s pram sat courtside next to his other gear, Kicker praying he would sleep through the match. Bastian took his first steps on one of these trips, and he was there when Kicker won his first Futures tournament in 2013.

Two years later, Kicker had cracked into the world’s top 200 and was playing on the Challenger Tour, the second rung of professional tennis. Continuing the climb would require more overseas travel as the most important tournaments take place in Europe, Australia and the US. The winnings were better, but his costs soared. Ricardo remortgaged the family home three times. Kicker’s mother, Mariana, took extra shifts at the school where she taught economics. The longer this cycle repeated itself, the angrier the rising star became.


On the morning of September 8 2015, Kicker awoke in Barranquilla, Colombia, and began preparing for his first-round match at a Challenger tournament. As he was stretching, a message notification chimed on his phone. When he saw who it was from, Kicker’s hands began to tremble. The sender had first contacted him earlier that summer, introducing himself as an avid sponsor. Back then, he had offered to pay Kicker’s travel and training expenses, and for a car. Eventually, he’d revealed himself as a match fixer and offered to pay Kicker to throw a single match in Todi, Italy. Put off by his deception, Kicker had demurred.

Now, the fixer was upping the ante. To make $15,000, all Kicker had to do was win the first set and lose the following two during that afternoon’s match. Giovanni Lapentti, his opponent, had beaten him easily in São Paulo back in February, a fact the fixer assured Kicker would put him above suspicion.

The young athlete was more susceptible than he’d been a few months earlier. He was worried about how far into debt he was slipping and about his legal obligation to continue supporting Florencia, from whom he’d recently split. It was a sweltering day, and Kicker was exhausted from reaching consecutive Challenger finals. Even before receiving the missive, he hadn’t felt like playing Lapentti. Plus, he couldn’t stop thinking about what he would do with the money, later likening it to having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Thirty minutes before he stepped on to the court, he accepted the fixer’s offer.

The bizarre performance that unfolded next gripped the thousands of people watching it live. Hundreds of thousands more have viewed the highlights on YouTube. Despite Lapentti’s recent victory, Kicker was the clear favourite; prematch odds at the bookmaker Pinnacle priced him at 1.53, equating to about a 65 per cent chance of victory. On the surface, it was a competitive match but, by the end of the first set, alarm bells were sounding.

Kicker went down an early break but recovered to serve at 5-2 up. In tennis, players need six games to win a set and, at most levels, the first player to win two sets takes the match. Players generally win when they serve so, with the opening set in his grasp, Kicker appeared even more likely to take the match.

But instead of shifting in his favour, the odds started going the other way. Huge sums of money were flowing in against a Kicker win on Betfair, one of the world’s most popular betting exchanges for tennis. Bookies had no choice but to adjust Kicker’s odds. “He was clearly winning, but the odds had him as less likely to win than at the start of the match,” says Ian Dorward, a tennis betting analyst. “Excluding injury, there’s no logical explanation for this.”

By the middle of the second set, Kicker’s game had crumbled. He looked uninterested, feigning effort while stealing nervous glances at the umpire. This wasn’t the Kicker who was known for grinding out every set. Oddly, Lapentti’s game also began to unravel. Despite his efforts, Kicker couldn’t actually seem to lose. So as the match reached its climax in the decisive third set, he had to resort to drastic measures.


Kicker hit four consecutive serves feebly into the net. In the final game, he missed four consecutive returns, two of which were carbon copies. Watching a showreel of these shots in retrospect, it seems so obvious that it almost looks like Lapentti has twigged what is going on. (Lapentti later told investigators he was exhausted and that he couldn’t believe Kicker wasn’t winning.) When it was all over, some £690,000 had been traded on the match on Betfair alone, nearly four times more than any other match that week.

Back in the locker room, Kicker broke down. The incident had blown up on social media, and his family was calling to find out what had happened. He sat there wishing the earth would swallow him. And wondering how soon authorities would be knocking on his door. Within hours, a betting company had raised an alert of the suspicious match, notifying the TIU in London and putting a detective on Kicker’s trail.


Few sports are as perfectly tuned for cheating as tennis. Tens of thousands of official matches take place year round, around the clock, making wide policing impractical. Because it is primarily an individual sport, match-fixing normally only requires a single player. And, from the sidelines, it can be difficult to distinguish a player who is having a bad day from one who is losing on purpose.

Then there is the scoring system — individual points in each game, set and match — which allows for a huge number of contingencies that can be bet on, each of which directly affects live odds. In the age of real-time online gambling, this makes tennis uniquely stimulating for punters. According to Adam Lewis, the barrister who chaired an independent review on match-fixing in tennis in 2018, you “couldn’t design” a better sports gambling product.

Global tennis has been grappling with these problems for the past 15 years. The TIU was established in 2008 to probe betting-related corruption. (Until then, the sport had turned to a team of investigators from the British Horseracing Authority to look into irregularities.) The TIU was led by a former detective chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police in London, and had the ability to impose fines and sanctions on players and umpires. Crucially, it was not legally independent from the sport’s main governing body.

In 2016, a BBC-BuzzFeed investigation, partially based on leaked TIU documents, alleged the prevalence of suspected match-fixing within the top levels of tennis, including a core network of 16 players who at various times over the preceding decade had ranked in the top 50. It further alleged that gambling syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily were making hundreds of thousands of pounds by betting on these matches.

The TIU’s failure to take action was widely condemned and prompted the independent inquiry. Lewis’ review highlighted the economic factors contributing to pervasive match-fixing at the lower and middle levels of professional tennis, namely how few players earn enough to cover their expenses, as well as the influence of online betting. “If the sport allows players to make more money by fixing a match than by actually playing it, there’s always a risk of corruption,” says Dorward, the betting analyst.

In 2013, the ITF inked a deal with Sportradar, a Swiss data-collection company, for an undisclosed amount, to distribute live scores across all its tournaments, even the smallest ones. Doing so enabled live betting and, potentially, an opportunity for players to sell matches. (In 2012, there were three suspicious match alerts at the Futures level; by 2016, that number had increased to 240.) By controlling the outcome, or even just specific parts of their match, they could secure a payout.

This is most easily achieved by players placing their own bets, normally through an intermediary such as a coach. Sometimes players will agree to split the first two sets, bet on them, then compete for the decider. Alternatively, they can sell a result to a third party. In the years that followed, match-fixers more or less fell into one of two categories: older journeymen who hadn’t quite made it to the top and naive young players who sold a match on their way up, like Kicker.

Increasingly, the game has become entangled with organised crime. These groups can make huge sums by bribing players to fix outcomes that their members then bet on. Four years ago, a Belgian-Armenian ring was found by Belgian authorities to have paid hundreds of low-ranking players in more than six countries.

Another operation was broken up in Spain a year later, involving 28 professionals, one of whom played at the US Open. Spanish police found €167,000 in cash, a handgun and various identity documents that had been used to create fake betting accounts. “There’s a small percentage of tennis players that, when you’re talking to them, you’re thinking, you’re not in it for tennis,” one investigator told me. “You are almost bordering on a criminal now.”


Dee Bain is a small woman in her early sixties with large grey eyes. She has been an investigator for more than 40 years. As a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police’s specialist crime unit, Bain headed up several match-fixing investigations in cricket. A TIU veteran, for the past 11 years she’s been a senior investigator responsible for some of her team’s most complex investigations. Bain believed there was little that could surprise her ‑ until she received an email from Marco Trungelliti in August 2015.

Trungelliti was a 25-year-old Argentine player, a crafty baseliner with curly brown locks and a world ranking of 265. Trungelliti relayed how a man had reached out on Facebook, inviting him to a meeting with the promise of sponsorship. When they met, the man invited him into a fraud ring, promising that he could earn as much as $100,000 per fixed match. To try to convince him, the man had given him a list of eight players whom he had already contacted.

One of those names was Nicolás Kicker. According to Trungelliti, the man had bragged that Kicker had fixed a Challenger match for him in Padua, Italy, in June. “He obviously asked me to keep quiet, but I can’t because I hate this,” Trungelliti wrote in the email, which was dated shortly before Kicker’s disastrous match in Barranquilla.

Using data provided by the betting companies and interviews with Trungelliti, Bain was able to sketch out the workings of a major betting syndicate. The frontman for the operation was the same fixer, who, by first posing as a sponsor, would corrupt tennis players on behalf of a group of gamblers that included an ex-player. She could connect these gamblers to a college in Buenos Aires, where the fixer had connections. To help him turn players, the fixer enlisted a former professional player who was trusted within the local tennis community.

Players, Bain learnt, were encouraged to download the encrypted Telegram app where they’d receive a call from an anonymous account before a match. The fixer would attend some competitions to ensure that the players were complying. To avoid detection, the syndicate would use mules, people hired to place small bets. Provided they followed instructions, players were normally given an envelope of cash after their match. This was the first time Bain had ever been able to directly link gamblers with corruptors and corruptors with players. It was a major breakthrough. “Players actually meeting the corruptors rather than just accepting an offer from another player . . . that was unusual,” she says.

But even with Trungelliti’s information, Bain needed more evidence. Then came Kicker’s match in Barranquilla in September. Shortly thereafter, Bain notified him he was being formally investigated, and he had had no choice but to tell his parents and his coach. The detective then flew to Buenos Aires to accelerate her search for evidence. Four of the people on Trungelliti’s list were in town for a Challenger tournament, including Kicker. Bain was on edge. This was her opportunity to interview each player systematically and to probe their accounts for inconsistencies. She strongly suspected Kicker had been involved after watching his match in Barranquilla and based on her initial interviews with other players.

On the afternoon of Sunday November 8, Bain hailed a cab and headed to the Racket Club where the tournament was being played. When she arrived, she spotted Kicker outside the tournament supervisor’s office. He was lying on the grass, stretching. She walked over, calmly introduced herself and, with the help of a translator, explained that he would have to hand over his mobile phone, in line with anti-corruption rules. Kicker objected.

“His attitude changed from being quite quiet to surly and more aggressive,” Bain recalls. (Kicker’s lawyer disputes this characterisation.) He fervently denied being approached by the fixer. He also questioned Bain’s power to request his phone. He then tried to leave, claiming he needed to get home to his son. She let him go on the condition they meet again in a few days, after he’d played his first-round match. Feeling that she was close, Bain warned Kicker not to tamper with his phone in the meantime.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kicker met with Bain in an unoccupied room on the top floor of the Ramada hotel in central Buenos Aires. The room was dark and dingy, with plastic ceiling lights, and torrential rain lashing at the windows made it hard for Bain and her translator to hear what Kicker was saying. He avoided eye contact. Kicker again denied any knowledge of being approached and denied selling the match in Barranquilla.

The only thing he admitted was that he’d once accepted a Facebook friend request from a man he came to know as the fixer, but he claimed they’d never spoken. When Bain asked to see his Facebook account, Kicker said he’d deleted it. Kicker also told Bain he’d been robbed of his phone at gunpoint earlier that morning. She insisted that he provide a copy of a police report as evidence of the theft, but she ultimately had to let him go and continue with her other interviews.

Bain met with Federico Coria, a 23-year-old baseliner, who had also been on Trungelliti’s list. When the young Argentine mentioned how he’d been at a Challenger tournament with Kicker that summer and that they’d laughed about how they’d both received the same Facebook message from the fixer, Bain’s eyes lit up. She realised she had it on record that Kicker was lying. “It was exhilarating,” she says.

That evening, Bain made her way back to the tournament site and, at around 8pm, she found Kicker once again outside the supervisor’s office. Kicker handed over a copy of the police report of the theft of his mobile phone. Bain explained to him that he had to attend a further interview with the TIU, but Kicker refused, saying he preferred to seek legal advice. This time, he was aggressive when he spoke to her. Subsequent interviews with other players later confirmed that Kicker had, in fact, been in touch with the fixer.

Bain returned to London and set in motion the sequence of events that would eventually lead to Kicker’s sanctioning as well as several others. Because the fixer is not a professional player, tennis authorities are not actively chasing him, although his real name is known to Interpol.

In the weeks and months after the interrogation, Kicker did his best to banish the investigation from his mind. In April 2016, he made his debut on the ATP Tour, the pinnacle of men’s professional tennis and, in June, he won his first Challenger tournament. Soon he broke into the world’s top 100 players for the first time. At the 2017 French Open, with Bastian in the tournament nursery, Kicker won his first Grand Slam match and qualified for Wimbledon a few weeks later. He was number 78 in the world.

Things began to fall apart rapidly that August when, at the US Open in New York, he learnt that he would face a disciplinary hearing. Suffering from body cramps, he was hardly able to compete. His case, brought by tennis’s governing bodies and adjudicated by an independent anti-corruption hearing officer, took place the following spring in Miami. He denied the match-fixing allegations and left the proceedings to await the officer’s verdict. On May 23, as he and his family made their way to Paris for the French Open, Kicker received a telephone call telling him he’d been found guilty.


By the time I began speaking to Kicker regularly, the TIU was no more. In 2021, it was replaced by another body with a confusing acronym, the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA). (Bain continues to work there.) It is a legally independent body with the power to bring charges against players directly. All the TIU could do was recommend prosecution to the sport’s governing bodies, as it did in Kicker’s case. “We’re the first sport in the world to separate its integrity function into a legally independent agency,” the ITIA’s outgoing CEO Jonny Gray says. In most other sports, corruption is investigated internally, which can create a real or perceived conflict of interest.

Another factor that distinguishes tennis from many other sports is what happens to confirmed cheaters. Sanctions are determined by an independent anti-corruption hearing officer. If a player is found to have fixed only one match, the officer may allow them to return to the sport, especially if they’ve shown remorse. “To that end there is the understanding that young people can make mistakes,” Gray says.

Lifetime bans are reserved for more serious cases and, in some instances, the ITIA will work with law enforcement agencies to seek a prison sentence. But the reality is that only a small number of players ever return to professional competition because the window of primacy is short. Most top players are done by the age of 30. What shorter bans allow is for them to coach, Gray explains. “In many ways, the decision is: are we going to let this person ever participate in this sport in any capacity?” Redemption may be infrequent, but in tennis it is possible.

At the age of 29, Kicker has been offered a rare second chance. In June 2018, he was found guilty of fixing two matches (though has only ever admitted to the one in Barranquilla) and was banned for six years, three of which would be suspended if he didn’t commit any more offences. He was later given an additional four-month reduction in exchange for recording an educational video about corruption in tennis. He was fined $25,000.

During his time away, Kicker never stopped behaving like a professional player. He trained every day, studied English and continued seeing his psychologist. To support himself, he managed the bookings of a football pitch at the family sports club. “When you have a son, you have to keep going. You have to keep yourself busy,” he explained, adding that the hardest day of his life was when Bastian asked him why he was no longer playing tennis on television.

Kicker finally returned to competitive tennis in January 2021. His results have been mixed, but he still dreams of breaking into the world’s top 30. After months of on-and-off conversations, I flew to Paris to meet Kicker in May, where he was once again competing at the French Open. With a ranking of around 200, he had to play the qualifying rounds.

On one of the outside courts, with a smattering of fans watching including his parents and Bastian, he lost a three-hour epic against Gastão Elias, a Portuguese player ranked above him. He felt he might have won had his legs not cramped up as he served for the match so, even in his disappointment, he hobbled off knowing his game was progressing. Trungelliti, who was playing on a nearby court, was briefly hailed as a hero after his disclosures but now stays away from Argentina where he is derided by many as a “snitch”. Kicker nodded politely to him as they passed each other between matches.

Nicolás Kicker ahead of a Challenger tournament match in Zagreb, Croatia, in May
Nicolás Kicker ahead of a Challenger tournament match in Zagreb, Croatia, in May © Matej Jurčević

The following morning, Kicker and I strolled along the banks of the Seine, the athlete limping slightly. “Physically, I’m not strong enough yet,” he said, speaking softly and switching between Spanish and broken English. He has short brown hair and a chiselled, conventionally handsome face that betrays little emotion. His manner is calm, not serene but controlled. But in every video call we had, he’d clam up when asked about the fixer’s approach or the match he was judged to have sold.

Bain says it was the same when she interviewed Kicker. “Truthfully, he’s never given a really huge account about it,” she says. “He’s not a man of many words, in my experience at least.” Whether this is because he is still hiding things or just his character, she couldn’t say. Kicker’s lawyer describes him as “cautious”, his coach Brzezicki as “timid”.

In Paris, Kicker was polite but shy, noticeably so when we arrived at the café he’d chosen where they served his favourite pains au chocolat. He didn’t greet the staff or engage in any small talk as we settled down at our table. When answering my questions, he spoke mostly in a monotone until something sparked his interest — his father, his son, Paris, none of it tennis — when he grew animated, talking quickly enough that it became a struggle to keep up.

He told me he’d agreed to speak with me because he wanted to highlight the poor pay most professional tennis players receive, compared with sports like football or golf. Most struggle to break even, which makes them vulnerable to corruption. (His page on the ATP website lists Kicker as having career winnings totalling $946,683, with $53,837 this year.)

For as long as there’s a financial incentive and an opportunity to fix matches, there will probably be stories like Kicker’s. And although the ITF has increased prize money across lower-level events, the game is still able to support just a tiny number of those who play professionally. The ITF has been implementing a ranking point structure designed to keep the best players moving up and, theoretically, earning more.

It is also reviewing whether more events can offer hospitality, and is collaborating with the sport’s other governing bodies to reduce players’ travel expenses by scheduling a block of tiered tournaments in the same region. The ITF hopes to eventually enable the top 750 men and 750 women to earn a living from the sport, though it cannot say by when.

Last year, the ITF renewed its deal with Sport­radar to sell live match data. The 2018 independent report recommended that professional tennis stop selling data from the lowest levels of the sport because the potential harm to players outweighs the revenue generated. But according to Stuart Miller, senior executive director of integrity and legal at the ITF, if this happened, a private organisation would probably step in to gather and sell the data, including to unregulated betting markets, ultimately posing a greater risk to the sport’s integrity. A spokesperson for Sportradar made a similar argument.

ITIA’s Gray says that, “funding the lower levels of the sport through the sale of data comes [with] the risk of a small proportion of ‘in-play’ match-fixing. So we use some of that revenue to minimise that risk. That is about the only way you can do it.” Though the number of match-fixing alerts has been “trending downwards”, according to ITIA, it’ll only be possible to determine the success of this strategy after the hangover from the pandemic.

Kicker did not qualify for the main draw at Wimbledon this year. Instead he flew to Germany to play a Challenger tournament on clay, where he’s always been most comfortable.

Back in Paris, I spoke to Ricardo and Mariana at the hotel as they finished packing for a short break in Barcelona before returning to Argentina. Mariana told me about her love of London, while Ricardo gathered the suitcases. Then he played a final game of table football with Bastian, now nine. Kicker’s son doesn’t play much tennis. He’s more of a footballer.

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