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Alexander Zverev is an Olympic gold medalist, but the domestic abuse allegations against him shouldn't be forgotten

Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev

The Olympic rings at Tokyo's Ariake Tennis Park were dyed in shades of the German tricolor on Sunday as Alexander Zverev won the gold medal in the men's singles event.

Zverev fell to his knees, clutching his face in disbelief, when a forced error from Karen Khachanov gave him the biggest triumph of his young career. That also helped him fulfill a childhood dream, placing him on a distinguished list of German Olympic champions.

But as an entire nation celebrated its first gold medal in tennis since 1992, somewhere far away a 23-year-old girl would have probably let out a dispirited sigh. It couldn't have been easy for her to see an alleged assaulter being celebrated by the same media that was supposed to help her expose him, the same media that was supposed to tell her story to the world.

That girl is Alexander Zverev's ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova - or 'Olya' - who made serious domestic abuse allegations against the German late last year.

The chilling accusations against Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev used to have everything a budding tennis star needs. For years he was advertised as the face of ATP's 'Next Gen', and his achievements at the Masters level backed that up. Zverev was a fan favorite on social media too, and was even endorsed by the two most famous tennis players in the world - the great Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

But all of that changed when the alleged misdeeds of the baby-faced angel came to light.

It's been over nine months since Olga Sharypova, a Russian national, made a series of shocking revelations on her Instagram page. Shortly after her social media expose, Sharypova gave a detailed account of the horror she allegedly went through in an interview with journalist Ben Rothenberg.

Alexnader Zverev and his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova
Alexnader Zverev and his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova

While explaining her version of events, Sharypova particularly highlighted one incident that pushed her over the edge. It was something so harrowing that it drove her to an attempt at ending her life.

The incident allegedly occurred at the 2019 Laver Cup, an exhibition tournament organized in Geneva by Alexander Zverev's then management company Team8. Sharypova claimed Zverev punched her in the face after an intense verbal fight in their hotel room, which left her weeping and distraught.

That is when Olga Sharypova decided to take the extreme step of injecting herself with the insulin she found in Zverev's room (his diabetic medication), in an attempt to take her own life. Sharypova was later found in the bathroom by Zverev; he and a tournament official supposedly worked together to get her out of danger.

As per Racquet Magazine, Sharypova did name the person who helped Zverev in rescuing her. However, that official refused to comment when approached by the magazine.

Sharypova spoke of another couple of incidents where Zverev allegedly treated her inhumanely. She claimed there was a physical altercation in New York a couple of weeks before the Laver Cup, in the aftermath of which Zverev even seized her passport.

There was also one that allegedly happened in China, where Zverev was playing the 2019 Shanghai Masters. That was when Sharypova finally decided to move on from the toxic relationship, taking help from a well-wisher to escape.

Alexander Zverev's popularity peaked around the same time that Olga Sharypova reportedly tried to take her life. Zverev won the Laver Cup in 2019 for Europe - a team that included both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - before anyone knew of the trouble brewing behind closed doors. The two biggest fanbases in tennis were naturally pleased with Zverev at the time, showering him with rich praise on social media.

Alexander Zverev was sold as the "hero" of the 2019 Laver Cup. Keep in mind this was the same tournament during which he allegedly pushed his partner towards suicide.

Olga Sharypova took some time to open up about her story of domestic abuse. It was a full 12 months before she finally gathered the strength to speak out.

Alexander Zverev, on the other hand, steadily added numbers to his already strong fanbase in that span of time. His life was totally unaffected even as Sharypova reportedly needed emotional support from friends and family just to get through her days.

After she gave a detailed account of events to Ben Rothenberg, Olga Sharypova would have hoped to find support from the tennis community at large. But as we've seen over the last few months, very few established media publications are giving the story the attention it deserves.

Some fans expressed hope that the ATP would take action, and either carry out an independent investigation or implement a strong policy against domestic violence. But the top governing body in men's tennis has given a grand total of one statement on the issue, claiming that they can't act on the allegations in the absence of a legal complaint.

Everyone in the ATP boardroom is apparently convinced that the allegations don't merit any action since Olga Sharypova hasn't filed a case. They have presumed Alexander Zverev to be innocent until he's proven guilty in court.

'Innocent until proven guilty' is what the law states, yes. But if Zverev is truly innocent, why hasn't he addressed Sharypova's very specific and detailed allegations? If the entire Laver Cup incident is fabricated by Sharypova, then why has the tournament not made a statement denying its involvement?

Alexander Zverev's silence shouldn't be mistaken for his innocence

"It's just allegations." "Her word against his." "He is innocent until a legal body decides he is guilty." These are the standard arguments that people defending Alexander Zverev have been putting forth over the last few months.

It is true that Zverev might never serve jail time or even be convicted of domestic abuse, since Sharypova has already declared she is never going to press charges. The German will always have the legal recourse to get out of any kind of sanction or punishment from the authorities.

But when you play professional sport, your legal immunity is not enough to shield you from all consequences. Tennis is bigger than any individual, and tennis players are looked at as role models by millions of people around the world. Can the ATP really afford to let one of its players go scot-free on a mere technicality?

Of course, the question of 'technicality' wouldn't arise if Alexander Zverev was innocent. But let's stop for a minute and think: would Zverev have been silent if all the alleged incidents were mere figments of a hyperactive imagination? Would he have been okay with a large number of people, some of whom were once his die-hard fans, calling him an 'abuser' on each of his social media posts?

Zverev has all the money at his disposal to hire the best legal team in the world. Why hasn't he sued Sharypova or the Racquet Magazine yet?

If accusations as serious as these were laid against me, I'd go hammer and tongs to refute them piece by piece - especially if I had the resources to. At the very least, I would send a legal notice to the supposedly lying accuser, asking them to produce stronger evidence or face brutal legal consequences.

I wouldn't just make flimsy statements casually brushing off the allegations, the way Alexander Zverev has.

That is what makes it extremely difficult to believe in Zverev's innocence. All that the German has done to refute his ex-girlfriend's allegations is put up a post on Twitter saying "The allegations make me very sad... They are simply not true" (the post has since been taken down by Zverev).

During the presentation ceremony after losing in the final of the 2020 Paris Masters, Zverev made an even more insensitive statement. "I know there are people trying to wipe the smile off my face but under my mask I’m still smiling," Zverev said in an oblique reference to Sharypova's accusations.

Alexander Zverev hasn't shown any kind of awareness about the seriousness of domestic violence. He hasn't even bothered to refute the passport seizing that Sharypova talked about or the alleged suicide attempt in Geneva; he has simply given generalized statements every time he has been asked about the issue.

In all fairness, nobody has even asked Zverev the important questions over the last few months. It almost seems as though tournament organizers have asked reporters to steer clear of the accusations while interacting with the German in his press conferences.

The Laver Cup official whom Olga Sharypova unflinchingly named, refused to comment on the issue too. If Alexander Zverev is in fact innocent, why doesn't he have the confidence to demand that the official be brought on record?

In the immediate aftermath of Sharypova's statements, some fans on Twitter dug out an image from the 2019 Shanghai Masters - where their last physical altercation allegedly took place. The pictures showed a couple of big scratch marks on Zverev's neck, which many believe are an indication of some kind of violence.

Why hasn't Alexander Zverev's team come out and explained the cause of these scratches, if they were not made by Olga Sharypova while defending herself? And it's not as though Zverev never checks social media either; he has been actively blocking all his "haters" on Instagram and Twitter who remind him of the accusations.

By contrast, Olga Sharpova has confidently declared that she is open to taking any lie detector test for anyone doubting her honesty.

It looks as if Alexander Zverev has simply decided that silence is his defense; he might be hoping for time to do its work and make people forget about the whole incident. Zverev has simply decided to move on and live his life, as a young parent and a star tennis player.

But that does very little to inspire confidence in his innocence.

Alexander Zverev's success should not make us forget "Olya's story"

Olga Sharypova would have hoped that sharing her story with the world would bring her some moral support and help her find inner peace. It did, to an extent, as seen by the gratitude she expressed on Instagram towards those who came forward in support.

But if you had opened her Instagram handle at the time, you would have also found several comments calling her a "bitch," a "fame-hungry slut" or a "gold-digging whore", among other eloquent terms. Apparently you deserve to be called all those names for making credible allegations against a famous athlete.

Too many people believe that celebrities cannot commit crimes. They also believe that if a celebrity is accused of committing a crime, that must only be because someone is trying to fleece them.

But Olga Sharypova has said on multiple occasions that she is not looking for any monetary compensation from Alexander Zverev. And her allegations are too detailed and provide too much circumstantial evidence to be dismissed without an investigation.

In other words, "Olya's story" is simply too concrete and substantial to ignore.

Alexander Zverev's gold medal-winning campaign at the Olympics should make us forget a lot of things. It should make us forget the notion that he is mentally suspect on the big stage, because he has proven that he is very good at handling pressure. It should make us forget the idea that he is incapable of dominating tennis in the years to come, because he is clearly one of the most gifted players of his generation.

But the one thing it should not make us forget is that there are some very serious accusations against him, which no amount of tennis glory can mask.

We should always look at Alexander Zverev with doubtful glasses...until he gives us enough evidence not to.

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Edited by Musab Abid
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