Alex Zverev is caught up in a battle to repair his tainted image with tennis’s young star dogged by allegations he denies of domestic violence from his former girlfriend
- Olga Sharypova has claimed Alex Zverev subjected her to violence last autumn
- The star remains dogged by the allegations of domestic abuse which he denies
- The accusations have now cast a shadow over his participation at the ATP Finals
This time a year ago, Alex Zverev was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, getting the rock-star treatment as he and Roger Federer jetted around South America on an exhibition tour.
As a bright young star of the game and client of Team8 – the management agency founded by Federer and his manager Tony Godsick – he was a natural choice of opponent for Federer to play matches against in a part of the world usually starved of seeing the great Swiss.
It is unlikely that they will be publicly paired up again soon. Not with Zverev the subject of recent allegations of domestic violence, which have cast a shadow over his participation at this week’s ATP Finals in London.
Alex Zverev has been subjected to allegations of domestic violence from his former girlfriend
Federer is missing from the event’s farewell to the capital as he nurses his way back to fitness after prolonged knee problems, with a hoped-for comeback at the Australian Open in January.
It remains to be seen how the men’s game’s biggest name, a careful curator of his own image, handles his association with the world No 7, who currently finds himself as the sport’s bete noire.
Zverev denies accusations from a former girlfriend, Olga Sharypova, that he subjected her to violence around autumn last year while they were in a relationship. Among the claims in a recent interview with America’s Racquet magazine was that he struck her in their hotel room during the Laver Cup tournament in Geneva.
Zverev has denied the accusations from Olga Sharypova, who claimed the star had struck her
That is the Europe versus the world team event, the brainchild of Federer and promoted by Team8, which is establishing itself as an annual fixture on the calendar. In 2022 it is scheduled to take place at this week’s venue, the O2 Arena, which is losing the ATP Finals from next year as it moves to Turin.
You would expect Zverev to feature in two years’ time, because he is undoubtedly one of the sport’s brightest talents and still only 23.
In fact, the level of his performances have survived the most turbulent year for him off the court, even by the standards of 2020.
Before this, he was already enmeshed in controversy. He played in the infamous Adria Tour and was then filmed partying when others were self-isolating; a different former girlfriend has revealed she is pregnant with their child; he was castigated for turning up to play at the French Open with symptoms of Covid-19 (although he subsequently tested negative). Capping it all, next month he is in London’s courts for the latest stage of a legal battle over alleged breach of contract with his ex-management company, who he left to join Team8.
The level of Zverev’s performances have survived the most turbulent year for him off the court
By far the most serious matters are those concerning Sharypova, notably at a time when the issue of domestic violence has never been of graver importance. It is a form of crime that is soaring, one of the collaterals of strict lockdowns.
Amid all this, Zverev reached the final of the US Open and nearly won it, and only last week he made the final of the Paris Masters.
For all the debate and trial-by-Twitter, the issue of the player versus his former girlfriend appears to be heading for a stalemate. She has indicated that she will not be taking the matter to the law, while he is denying her charges. On Friday, he referred to pre-prepared words on his phone when the inevitable question came in the tournament build-up press conference.
The Zverev situation is just one low point in what has been a particularly difficult year for tennis
Many have questioned why tennis governing bodies have remained quiet, at least until Friday night when the ATP Tour belatedly issued a statement. In effect, it said they could only act if ‘legal authorities investigate’.
This comes back to the old chestnut of tennis not having a defining body to assert its authority. Unlike many sports, tennis players are not employees as such, and the ATP Tour is only an alliance between a members’ organisation and the tournaments, not including the all-important Grand Slams.
The Zverev situation is just one low point in what has been a particularly difficult year for a sport with an international composition unique in many ways.
The issue of the player versus his former girlfriend now appears to be heading for a stalemate
It is to tennis’s credit that it has somehow staggered towards this week’s event, which for a long time looked in danger of not happening. It has retained its meaning and significance, despite so many events having to be stitched together across so many jurisdictions.
The fields of the top eight singles players and eight doubles teams cannot be said to be full of fluky interlopers who would not have qualified in regular circumstances.
Aside from the injured Federer, the eventual line-up – headed by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – is one of the few normal-looking things about tennis in 2020.
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