Content warning: Discussion of domestic violence, suicide
German tennis player Alexander Zverev is having the best few seasons of his career. Before an injury sidelined him at this year’s French Open, his career had been soaring. He won Olympic gold in July, a victory that stands among one of his biggest achievements.
Soon after his first Grand Slam final in 2020, however, allegations of abuse from his former girlfriend became public.
In an article published by tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg in Racquet magazine, Olya Sharypova alleged physical and emotional abuse she endured while in a relationship with Zverev.
Almost two years after the story was published, with a follow-up in Slate magazine in August 2021, Zverev is still making headlines around the world.
Rothenberg’s articles described how the couple’s relationship deteriorated, as Zverev allegedly became increasingly controlling. After a big fight, Sharypova claims that Zverev hit her head into a wall as she was trying to leave his apartment. After this incident, she alleged that he often resorted to violence during their fights.
The emotional and physical abuse Sharypova detailed culminated in her allegedly attempting to take her own life.
The first such alleged incident was during the Laver Cup in 2019 — an elite team event that pits Team World and Team Europe against each other in a series of matches. The German pulled out a heroic match against Canadian Milos Raonic at a time when Zverev’s persistence was often failing him, winning the Cup for his team.
During this tournament, the couple allegedly had one of their worst fights, in which the German allegedly punched Sharypova for the first time.
“After this fight he left the room, and I was dying. I was emotionally dying,” said Sharypova in Rothenberg’s article.
The article also included screenshots from text conversations showing Sharypova alleging being barefoot on the streets of New York after having fled from Zverev.
Zverev’s response to the accusations has been complete denial and pushback. He posted on Instagram denying the allegations “categorically and unequivocally.”
“There’s always going to be people that try to put you down when you’re on top,” Zverev said after beating Rafael Nadal at the Rolex Paris Masters. “As long as you still have a smile at the end of the day, I think that’s the most important in life.”
He also took the matter to a German court. According to the New York Times, the court decided to issue an injunction against Slate magazine and Rothenberg from publishing allegations without “more substantial evidence.”
Despite the injunction, the article has not been blocked for German readers. The New York Times also reported that no one except Zverev’s lawyers were present during the hearing.
Zverev has faced almost no consequences. The ATP, the Association of Tennis Professionals, announced an investigation in October 2021 — 11 months after Rothenberg’s story first ran in Racquet magazine.
“ATP will now evaluate the recommendations to identify immediate next steps and develop a longer-term safeguarding strategy relating to all matters of abuse, including domestic violence,” reads a press release from the organization following an Independent Safeguarding Report commissioned by the ATP.
Though the ATP states it has a “responsibility” to address the allegations, it seems that investigation has stalled. It wasn’t until spring of this year, around six months later, that the organization first reached out to Sharypova.
This is not the only case of alleged domestic abuse in tennis. Georgian player Nikoloz Basilashvili was arrested in his home country on a domestic violence charge. Just this month, Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios has been summoned to court on allegations from his former girlfriend.
The ATP and other organizations remain continuously silent, with many arguing that they are not doing enough to represent their commitment to safety.
The Laver Cup — the tournament at which Sharypova allegedly first attempted to take her life — invited Zverev to participate in 2021. The Cup’s social media accounts blocked and deleted both comments and replies from people bringing up the allegations in response to his participation in this prestigious tournament.
Yet, Zverev is still popular among tennis fans. He is also certainly faring well in his career: The German is ranked second in the ATP’s rankings. As fans continue to press for firmer measures and more thorough investigations, none of the players facing allegations have encountered any repercussions as far as sources have released.Almost two years after Sharypova’s story was published, many are questioning whether tennis authorities value income over their commitment to safety standards.
Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].