ATP launches investigation into Alexander Zverev domestic abuse allegations

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The ATP announced on Monday that it is opening an investigation into domestic abuse allegations made against Alexander Zverev, the No. 4 ranked men's tennis player in the world. 

“The allegations raised against Alexander Zverev are serious and we have a responsibility to address them," ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli said in a statement. "We hope our investigation will allow us to establish the facts and determine appropriate follow-up action. We understand Zverev welcomes our investigation and acknowledge that he has denied all allegations. We will also be monitoring any further legal developments following the preliminary injunction obtained by Zverev in the German Courts.”

The allegations the ATP is investigating are nearly a year old. In a November 2020 interview with Ben Rothenberg of Racquet, Zverev's ex-girlfriend, Olga Sharypova, accused him of repeated emotional abuse, culminating in at least two alleged physical altercations — one in New York before the 2019 US Open, and one in Geneva during the Laver Cup shortly after. 

Zverev has denied all of Sharypova's allegations, and obtained an injunction against Sharypova and Rothenberg. 

The allegations against Zverev

In her interview with Rothenberg, Sharypova said that Zverev's alleged abuse escalated over time. It started with Zverev allegedly berating and insulting her repeatedly, and eventually moved to physical altercations. One allegedly occurred in a New York hotel before the 2019 US Open, which resulted in Sharypova running away from the hotel with the help of strangers. 

The two traveled together to Geneva for the Laver Cup, as the friend Sharypova had run to for help in New York had called Zverev and reunited them. In their Geneva hotel room, Zverev and Sharypova allegedly got into another physical altercation. It was the first time Zverev had punched her in the face, according to Sharypova. After he left, she said she injected herself with insulin in an attempt to end her life. She refused to open the door for Zverev, but a Laver Cup official allegedly intervened and convinced her to let him in. 

Sharypova revealed in an August 2021 interview with Rothenberg for Slate that she and Zverev traveled to Shanghai for another tournament sometime after they left Geneva. While there, he allegedly continued to abuse her emotionally and physically, leading Sharypova to inject herself with insulin in another attempt to end her life. Sharypova told Rothenberg that the friend who had reunited her and Zverev in New York helped her get away from him in Shanghai and eventually back home to Russia.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Alexander Zverev of Team Europe prepares to play 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. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for Laver Cup)
The ATP is investigating allegations of domestic abuse made against Alexander Zverev by his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

Why did it take so long for the ATP to investigate?

With the Laver Cup allegations now a year old, why is the ATP just opening an investigation into them now? The answer is pretty shocking for a sports organization operating in the 21st century: the ATP doesn't have a domestic violence policy. 

This is what happened when Rothenberg asked the ATP in 2020 if they were investigating Sharypova's allegations against Zverev, via Racquet:

When I asked the ATP if they were investigating Sharypova’s account of abusive behavior by Zverev, and what their policy was regarding domestic violence, their spokesperson responded only by pointing me toward a section of the ATP rulebook that broadly defines “an obligation for ATP players…to refrain from engaging in conduct contrary to the integrity of the game of tennis,” which could include criminal charges or simply behaving in “a manner severely damaging to the reputation of the sport.”

The Zverev allegations put the ATP in a bind. Criminal charges are mentioned in that section of the rulebook, but Sharypova has said several times that she does not wish to press charges against Zverev, and is sharing her story to help others. 

In August, the ATP announced it was reviewing its "safeguarding" policies, especially in relation to domestic violence. On Monday, in the same news release used to announce the Zverev investigation, the ATP announced the independent review was complete and implementation of new policies would begin once the recommendations had been reviewed.

Compiled by a team of experts led by Chris Smart, former Detective Chief Inspector in the Metropolitan Police (UK), the report outlines a number of wide-ranging recommendations to ensure safeguarding is embedded across all aspects of ATP organisational activity. Topics covered include prevention, reporting and investigation of abuse, disciplinary measures, policy statements, event safety, training, information sharing, collaboration with other bodies of tennis and the appointment of dedicated safeguarding leads.

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.

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