Jue. Feb 29th, 2024

Alexander Zverev will play in the semifinals at the Australian Open on Friday against Daniil Medvedev. But as the 26-year-old German looks to reach his second career major final, he remains the focus of domestic abuse allegations. On Jan. 16, as the first round of the Australian Open was underway, the Tiergarten district court in Berlin announced it had set May 31 as the start of Zverev’s trial — bringing the accusations back to the forefront.

Here’s what to know about the case:


What are the allegations against Zverev?

According to a court document from October, Zverev is accused of «physically abusing and damaging the health of a woman during an argument in Berlin in May 2020.» The woman is his former partner, Brenda Patea, who is also the mother of his daughter. (ESPN doesn’t normally name alleged victims of domestic abuse, but Patea has gone public with her accusations.) In an interview, Patea said Zverev pushed her into a wall and choked her.

On Oct. 2, 2023, a criminal court issued a fine of €450,000 (about $488,000) and a penalty order against Zverev. In German law, such an order can be used when there is compelling evidence to support the accusation and a trial is not deemed necessary. Defendants have the right to contest the order, which then results in a public trial. Zverev contested the order and legally maintains the presumption of innocence until he stands trial.

On Nov. 1, Zverev called the penalty order «complete bulls—» when speaking to the media at the Paris Masters event. «Anybody that has a semi-standard IQ level knows what this is all about,» Zverev said without further explanation.


Have there been any previous allegations against Zverev?

Yes. Olya Sharypova, another previous partner of Zverev’s and a former tennis player, publicly came forward on Instagram in October 2020 with allegations of abuse at various places around the world, including in cities where ATP tournaments were being held.

In a series of media interviews soon after, Sharypova described multiple instances of violence, including Zverev allegedly punching her in the face, as well as smothering her with a pillow as she struggled to breathe. She said she feared for her life.

Zverev denied the accusations. Sharypova did not go the police, but the ATP hired an outside firm to look into her claims. After a 15-month investigation, which included interviews with Sharypova, Zverev and 24 others, the ATP announced on Jan. 31, 2023, that it would not be punishing Zverev as there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations. The ATP did not publish a full report of its findings.

«From the beginning, I have maintained my innocence and denied the baseless allegations made against me,» Zverev said in a statement released later that day. «I welcomed and fully cooperated with the ATP’s investigation and am grateful for the organization’s time and attention in this matter.»


Why are the allegations a topic of discussion right now?

The Tiergarten district court in Berlin announced the May 31 start date for the trial at the beginning of the Australian Open, making the allegations top of mind for reporters, fans and fellow players. The trial is expected to last eight, non-consecutive days with the last one currently slated for July 19.

Additionally, Zverev was named as a member of the ATP Player Advisory Council earlier this month. After Zverev’s first-round win over Dominik Koepfer, the questions during the English-speaking portion of his news conference were entirely about his position on the Council. Because he had been voted into the leadership position — which makes recommendations to the ATP on behalf of the players — by his peers, he said members of the media were the only ones who believed his role to be inappropriate.

«Journalists are saying that, some, who are actually interested more in this story to write about and more about the clicks than the actual truth,» Zverev said.

Zverev was also featured extensively in an episode of the current season of Netflix’s «Break Point,» which was released Jan. 10. The allegations were not mentioned.


Does the ATP have a domestic abuse policy?

No. While other leagues, such as the NBA and NFL, have specific policies related to domestic abuse and violence, the ATP does not.

In October 2021, while announcing it would be investigating the initial claims against Zverev, the ATP said it had commissioned and received an independent safeguarding report.

«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,» the organization said in a statement.

In March 2023, the ATP hired Andrew Azzopardi as its director of safeguarding. A specific policy has yet to be released. The ATP does have a more general code of conduct policy, which outlines potential punishments for «conduct contrary to the integrity of the game,» including for those charged with a crime.

«A player, or related person, charged with a violation of a criminal or civil law of any jurisdiction may be deemed by virtue of such charge to have engaged in conduct contrary to the integrity of the Game of Tennis and the ATP Members Fines Committee may provisionally suspend such player, or related person, from further participation in ATP tournaments pending a final determination of the criminal or civil proceeding,» the 2024 ATP rulebook states.

When asked this week for clarity regarding Zverev and the code of conduct, the ATP issued a statement to ESPN.

«We are aware of the upcoming legal trial involving Alexander Zverev, and will not be commenting until that process is complete.»


Have any of his peers spoken about the charges, the upcoming trial or his role on the ATP’s Player Advisory Council?

While several players were asked questions in the days following the announcement of the trial date during their news conferences at the Australian Open, most said they were unable to comment. Alex de Minaur said he was «good at playing tennis» but «not good at making political decisions» and was «going to stay out of it and focus on playing tennis.» Stefanos Tsitsipas said he was «completely unfamiliar» with the situation.

«I haven’t had too much time to think about it, and don’t really have an opinion right now,» Casper Ruud said. «But yeah, I’m not exactly sure how to react to it, so won’t give you a good answer. Sorry.»

Grigor Dimitrov, who is also a member of the Council, initially said he didn’t want to comment because he was unaware of the situation, before acknowledging Zverev’s recent election to the position.

«I think everyone needs to sit down together and discuss all of that,» Dimitrov said. «That’s my message on that end. Of course now these things coming through, personally, I didn’t know. So I’m sure if you ask all the other guys, it’s something that if it’s needed, I guess we are all going to sit down and talk about it.»

Sloane Stephens, who recently concluded a stint on the WTA’s Players’ Council, said the WTA players would not have elected someone facing such charges.

«I think that the ATP kind of beats their own drum,» Stephens said last week. «Yeah, they do what they do on that side. Would that happen on the WTA Tour? Probably not.»

Stephens acknowledged Zverev’s presence on tour was a «difficult situation» and said she hoped the trial would «put it to rest.»

«There’s a lot of speculation and allegations,» Stephens said. «I think at this point for the tour and for the fans it needs to be done with. I think that’s what will happen. People will get what they want whenever his trial is. We’ll just go from there. I guess the ATP will then decide what they will do with their player after that. …

«For three years no one has done anything, so I don’t think another five months of waiting for a criminal trial I guess to happen is going to change much on either side.»

Iga Swiatek, the current top-ranked women on tour, said she wasn’t «in the right position to judge» but did say she was disappointed that Zverev had been voted onto the Council.

«For sure it’s not good when a player who’s facing charges like that is kind of being promoted,» Swiatek said.


What would happen if he were found guilty during his trial?

That might be one of the biggest unknowns at this point. Zverev will not have to be present at his trial, which begins during the 2024 French Open and also will have dates held during Wimbledon in July and could run longer if necessary.

According to the BBC, he could be asked to attend in person later in the trial if needed, and the sentence for someone found guilty of a domestic abuse charge in Germany ranges from a fine to five years in prison. Zverev would likely pay the initial fine amount he was issued in October.

The ATP has not publicly shared how Zverev would be punished if he were deemed guilty.

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