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Tennis

ATP Investigates Alexander Zverev Over Allegations Of Domestic Abuse

Alexander Zverev of Team Europe reacts to a shot against John Isner of Team World during the sixth match during Day 2 of the 2021 Laver Cup at TD Garden on September 25, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Laver Cup

The Association of Tennis Professionals, the main governing body of men’s tennis, announced Monday that it is conducting an internal investigation into allegations of abuse by Alexander Zverev, Tokyo Olympics gold medalist and current No. 4 player in the world. In response, Zverev continued to deny the allegations, and said he supported a domestic violence policy and had asked the tour to initiate an independent investigation for months.

Zverev’s ex-girlfriend Olya Sharypova first described Zverev’s abuse in a November 2020 piece by Ben Rothenberg in Racquet magazine. (Disclosure: I contribute to Racquet but had no involvement with this report.) The alleged events occurred in Geneva at the Laver Cup in September 2019. After the article was published, the ATP gestured towards a vague section of its rulebook forbidding players from engaging in “conduct contrary to the integrity of the game of tennis,” and said it would follow the lead of “legal authorities.” Sharypova chose not to formally press charges against Zverev, saying that she “doesn’t want anything from him” and only wanted to “say the truth.”

A followup report, drawing on a second Rothenberg interview with Sharypova, was published in Slate this past August. In it, Sharypova describes abuse by Zverev at an event in Shanghai in 2019, occurring inside a tournament hotel room, which falls within the “tournament site” described in this passage of the ATP rulebook: “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.” Sharypova said Zverev punched her and pushed her up against a wall by her throat. The Slate report includes contemporaneous text messages and photos of her bruises.

During this year’s U.S. Open, the allegations were mentioned in mainstream coverage, including the live commentary for Zverev’s matches on several broadcasts. The most outspoken critic in the TV set may have been former player and longtime commentator Mary Carillo. Though she had been approached to serve as a presenter and commentator at the Laver Cup—an annual September exhibition between two teams of hand-picked players, including Zverev—she chose to step away from the contract after she talked to a tournament organizer and realized she wouldn’t have been able discuss the allegations with the appropriate seriousness.

“What we say, or don’t say, shapes opinion,” she said last month on the Behind the Racquet podcast. “[…] Whatever vibe they were trying to create, I was going to trod on that.”

During this year’s Laver Cup, American player Reilly Opelka made a direct reference to the allegations in a widely circulated on-court exchange. “He said that’s the last point we’re gonna win,” said John McEnroe, who was coaching the team opposing Zverev, trying to fire up his players. “He also said he’s innocent,” Opelka replied.

Despite nearly a year of inaction since the initial report, the tour is finally making its own inquiry into the Zverev allegations. Its most recent statement indicates that it is focusing its investigation on the abuse alleged to have taken place in Shanghai in 2019, at an “ATP member tournament,” even though the 2019 Laver Cup in Geneva, site of the abuse described in Rothenberg’s first report, also received ATP support. Defector asked a tour spokesperson to comment on the timing of the investigation, given that the allegations of abuse been public for quite some time, and will update this post if we hear back.