Alexander Zverev and ATP must use abuse investigation findings as watershed moment
One of the ugliest ATP incidents in recent times came to a close this week, with the conclusion of a lengthy investigation into allegations of abuse against Alexander Zverev.
Zverev’s ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova made the allegations in October 2020, but this week the ATP confirmed it could find insufficient evidence to substantiate the claims.
It is important to note from the outset that we are talking about allegations here, and allegations that have not been proven at that.
Any 15-month extensive investigation into what may or may not have happened is in far better position to comment on the details than Tennishead, and the findings have to be respected.
Fact is, there is no evidence of abuse, and until there is there should be no stain on Zverev’s name.
The wider issue, though, should be a much-needed wake-up call for both the ATP and the German. While the investigation found no basis for charges, the need for such an extensive investigation in the first place must be the basis of change.
The reality is that the ATP have a safeguarding responsibility. That is something they have acknowledged themselves.
We ultimately believe the exhaustive process was necessary to reach an informed judgement. It has also shown the need for us to be more responsive on safeguarding matters. It is the reason we’ve taken steps in that direction, with a lot of important work still ahead,” ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli said after closing the case on Alexander Zverev.
The problem that they face is challenging, and we should acknowledge that before judging them too harshly. The ATP travel around the world and work in multiple countries, with multiple cultures, across multiple languages. Often there are multiple tournaments going on in multiple places at the same time. Safeguarding is a monumental task.
That, though, does not serve as an excuse. If anything, it heightens the need for change, and hopefully that change can now be delivered with urgency.
As for Zverev himself, what must have been a serious distraction to his tennis has now been lifted.
“From the beginning, I have maintained my innocence and denied the baseless allegations made against me,” the German said. “I welcomed and fully cooperated with the ATP’s investigation and am grateful for the organisation’s time and attention in this matter.
“This decision marks a third, neutral, third-party arbiter who has reviewed all relevant information and made a clear and informed decision on this matter in my favour. In addition to the ATP’s independent investigation, I have also initiated court proceedings in Germany and Russia, both of which I have won.
“I am grateful that this is finally resolved and my priority now is recovering from injury and concentrating on what I love most in this world — tennis. I want to thank my friends, family and fans for their ongoing support. We followed the long and difficult process and justice has prevailed.”
Zverev had a similar distraction in late 2020 when he settled a dispute with his former agent out of court. Is it any wonder, then, that he has struggled to fulfil his obvious potential on the court?
Yes, he has had the barrier of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to overcome, but so has everyone else. Is one Grand Slam final really representative of his talent? Nowhere near.
He is lagging behind Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and even now Casper Ruud in that regard.
You expect that will change, but for how long have we been saying that now?
At 25-years-old, Zverev is now beginning what should be his peak years and he would be well-advised to use this as a watershed moment to make sure he can make the most of them.
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