Zverev, the new taboo in tennis
Germany’s Alexander Zverev is definitely the new taboo in tennis. Simply by reading the following answers from four top players.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: “I won’t talk about it. I am completely unfamiliar with the situation. I have nothing to comment.
Grigor Dimitrov: “First time I hear this. I won’t comment because I don’t know the situation. I stay away from the news.”
Casper Ruud: “I haven’t had much time to think about it, and I don’t really have an opinion at the moment.”
Cameron Norrie: “I honestly don’t know much about it. I can’t comment, unfortunately.”
What don’t they know? What don’t they want to talk about?
About Alexander Zverev already accumulating two accusations of domestic violence. The first one made through the media Racquet and Slate that picked up the raw testimony of his ex-partner Olya Sharypova. That led, a year later, to the ATP initiating an investigation into the matter, then closed for “insufficient evidence”. There were no consequences, and to date there has been no sign of the creation of a policy against abuse cases that several voices have called for.
The second came from Brenda Patea, ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter. The complaint states that Zverev grabbed her by the neck and pressed her against the wall. The German allegedly caused her cervical damage and difficulty in swallowing in the following days. This accusation found a reaction from the Berlin court. In October 2023 the court issued a penalty order against the former world number two and fined him almost half a million dollars. In Germany, for minor offenses, a sanction order can be issued when a judge considers that the case is straightforward and does not warrant a trial.
The defendant can challenge the order, maintaining the presumption of innocence, which is why Zverev will now face a public trial scheduled for late May. It will coincide with the French Open.”The defendant will, in principle, not have to appear in person because it is a hearing after he contested the penalty order,” a court spokesman told BBC Sports.
Tennis players are unwilling, or unable, to answer whether it is appropriate for the 26-year-old to continue in the role he assumed earlier this month on the ATP Players Council 2024.
There are two options. Either Dimitrov, Tsitsipas, Ruud and Norrie were cut off from the internet service the last few years, or perhaps the only source of information they accessed was the tennis series “Break Point,” which in its season two had the German as one of its protagonists.
“I think you picked the wrong personalities to film the first season. You should have filmed me,” Zverev’s voice opens the episode dedicated to him, with frames showing him with his current girlfriend Sophia Thomalla.
The Tokyo 2021 Olympic champion jokes that his story is full of drama. While facing Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of Roland Garros 2022, he fractured his ankle and seven ligaments. If he won that tournament, he would also be the best in the world, instead he had to leave the court in a wheelchair. As impressive as his accident, it was his comeback: the times of surgeries, crutches and sessions with the kinesiologist became old memories with a new Roland Garros semi-final and the title in Hamburg.
But the drama that occurs off the court desn’t exist for the series. The powers of tennis determined what was going to be told and what was not, and who chose that the narrative around Zverev was about a happy world.
Special emphasis is given to his current sentimental relationship, to the companionship and complicity that helped him to return to high competition. He is presented as a “golden boy”.
Several of the journalists who travel full-time on the tour decided not to attend his press conferences anymore. At major tournaments, meetings with Zverev in the media rooms exhibit a lot of German press and very little international press.
After his first-round triumph at the Australian Open, the German answers according to the only topic he is asked about in English, before talking tennis with his compatriots.
— Do you think it’s appropriate to continue on the ATP Players Council while that case is underway?
— Why wouldn’t it be? — replies Zverev.
— There is a question mark regarding his trial. The court will decide.
— There isn’t.
— Do you have the confidence of your fellow players to continue in that position?
— Yes, I think so. No one has said anything to me.
The subject is dodged on the men’s tour. Current and former top ten players accuse ignorance as seen with Tstsipas, Ruud, Dimitrov and Norrie.
The number one in women’s tennis, on the other hand, does dare to say something. Poland’s Iga Swiatek responded to what she thinks of Zverev’s election to the ATP Players’ Council: “For sure it’s not good when a player who’s facing charges like this kind is being promoted.”