LONDON (Reuters) - More tennis players were disciplined for violations of anti-corruption rules in 2018 than in any other year since the creation of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) 10 years ago, the body said on Wednesday.
A total of 21 individuals broke anti-corruption rules with the majority sanctioned for match-fixing or betting offences.
Eight lifetime bans were imposed, most notably to Italian former world number 49 Daniele Bracciali for match-fixing and facilitating betting.
"During 2018 the TIU has continued to work tirelessly to protect the integrity of the sport," TIU chairman Steve Simon said in a statement.
"While it is concerning that the numbers of players and officials prosecuted continues to rise year-on-year, it is also a reflection of the zero-tolerance policy that the governing bodies remain fully committed to upholding."
During 2018 there were a total of 264 matches that triggered alerts from betting operators and regulators, compared to the 241 recorded the previous year but lower than the 292 in 2016.
Once again most, 163, occurred on the ITF Men's Futures tour -- the lowest rung of the professional ladder and often seen as the most fertile ground for match-fixing due to the limited prize money on offer at that level.
Only three alerts were triggered at Grand Slam tournaments while there were 39 on the ATP Challenger Tour.
The TIU's annual review comes a month after the publication of recommendations made by an International Review Panel (IRP), set up by the ATP, WTA, ITF, and the Grand Slam Board, to address betting-related and integrity issues facing tennis.
That report confirmed that the panel had seen "no evidence of any institutional corruption or cover-up by the tennis
authorities or the TIU" -- allegations, denied by all the sport's governing bodies, which arose in 2016 after a report by the BBC and BuzzFeed News.
The IRP report did, however, say that tennis has a "serious integrity problem" and put forward a series of recommendations covering 12 areas of integrity and governance.
Among the recommendations were limitations placed on live scoring data, especially in the lower runs of the tennis ladder, better pathways for lower-ranked players to make a living and the establishment of an independent supervisory board to oversee the work of the TIU.
"Work has already begun to implement the panel's recommendations and that process will continue apace throughout 2019 and beyond," TIU director Nigel Willerton said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)