Novak Djokovic has divided tennis fans and commentators after being asked to comment on domestic violence allegations against Alexander Zverev.
Djokovic beat Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) on Friday to advance to the semi-finals of the ATP Finals, where he will play US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
The World No.1 was then asked to address the shocking allegations levelled at Zverev by ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova, and whether or not he thought tennis should have a domestic violence policy.
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Zverev, who won the 2018 ATP Finals in London, has been competing under the shadow of serious abuse claims made by Sharypova.
He strongly denies the allegations, which were made by the former junior player on Instagram and in two media interviews, but has not addressed them in any detail.
The ATP, which runs the men’s tour, had been criticised for not making any public comment until last week, when it issued a generic statement saying it “fully condemns any form of violence or abuse”.
Novak Djokovic comments on Zverev situation
Several major American sports have a policy setting out a procedure to be followed in such situations, and Djokovic believes tennis should go down the same route.
“I've known Sascha (Zverev) for a very long time since he was very young,” he said.
“I always had a great relationship with him, he's a very nice guy. I have a lot of respect for him, his family.
“I was sad to hear that he’s going through something like this.
“I don't know what happened. Obviously I’m not supporting any kind of violence. Whether ATP should develop a policy? Yes, why not? Probably it should be there in place.”
Tennis has largely closed ranks around Zverev, with Aussie star Daria Gavrilova a notable exception in saying she believes Sharypova.
However Djokovic went the other way on Friday and offered the German his full support.
“He’s been handling it well by the looks of his results in the last month-and-a-half or so,” Djokovic said.
“He’s been doing well considering he’s got a lot on his plate off the court.
“I sincerely wish for him that he overcomes this soon and that he can focus on his life and tennis career.”
Djokovic’s comments were slammed by some fans and members of the media, with many believing he should have been stronger on his stance.
Many were also fuming that Djokovic never mentioned the alleged victim.
— Raphael Miranda (@Raphael4NY) November 20, 2020
Please point to where people want “his life to fall apart.” This statement from Djokovic is pathetic.
— Clinton 🎾🎯 (@ClintonChanges) November 20, 2020
He hopes he "overcomes it"? I'm beginning to realise what a boys' club the ATP is.
— Vicki Spreadbury (@vickispreadbury) November 20, 2020
Yeah Djokovic may be a great tennis player but his statements regarding serious issues this year really need work. Horrible answer.
— lucefan (@lucefan) November 20, 2020
It is always the dudes feeling sorry for other dudes that "have to go through this." Despicable.
— Joy Sims (@JoySims) November 20, 2020
Djokovic answers regarding Zverev are disgusting, honestly. Men protecting men, just in case they need help in the future, I guess.
— Sorcere Sosa 🏳️🌈🦄 (@Sorcere_16) November 20, 2020
However many more didn’t see a problem with Djokovic’s remarks.
What more did you want Djokovic to say? He says he’s obviously against any kind of violence, he doesn’t know what happened in this case, and he’s in favour of the ATP adopting a policy. All more than fair comments
— Philip Farrell (@philip_farrell) November 20, 2020
Just curious, do you expect him to throw his friend under the bus? Do you expect to get a detailed amazing answer about domestic abuse from a tennis player? What exactly are your expectations from someone that clearly doesn't have the credentials or knowledge to answer?
— Southpaw22 (@LBGpodcast) November 20, 2020
Nothing wrong with this response
— Savin (@SavinAswani) November 20, 2020
Listen I'm not a Djokovic fan, but his response was fine. We can't expect players to be making judgements in such circumstances. Atm we don't have all the info, to preempt any type of verdict is unfair
— M (@real7168) November 20, 2020
Top four advance to ATP Finals semis
Djokovic ensured the world’s top four players reached the semi-finals of the ATP Finals for the first time since 2004 with his straight-sets victory.
World No.2 Rafael Nadal will take on fourth-ranked Daniil Medvedev in the second semi-final.
Djokovic is aiming for a record-tying sixth title at the season-ending tournament, and a first since 2015, while Nadal is trying for the 10th time to win his maiden crown at the elite eight-man event.
Medvedev warmed up for his final-four showdown by blowing away Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-3 in the empty O2 Arena, to top his group with three consecutive victories.
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