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ATP announces Alexander Zverev investigation, German says he "welcomes" the move but threatens legal action against Ben Rothenberg

Alexander Zverev and Olga Sharypova at the the 2019 Hamburg Open
Alexander Zverev and Olga Sharypova at the the 2019 Hamburg Open

Almost a year after Olga Sharypova's domestic abuse allegations against former boyfriend and World No. 4 Alexander Zverev, the ATP has announced an official investigation into the matter. In response, Zverev has issued a statement claiming that he is on-board with the ATP's move.

But at the same time, the German has threatened legal action against Ben Rothenberg and the Slate magazine. Slate published an article last month, written by Rothenberg, giving a detailed account of Sharypova's claims.

Sharypova first spoke with Rothenberg last year, accusing Zverev of physically abusing her during the 2019 Shanghai Masters. In a subsequent and even more chilling interview with Slate, the Russian described in graphic detail Zverev's alleged misconduct at multiple ATP tournaments.

At around the same time as the release of the Slate article, the ATP put out a statement promising to review its policies regarding abuse in the sport. As a follow-up to that, the men's governing body announced on Monday it had received a report outlining a strategy to deal with "all matters of abuse, including domestic violence".

Via ATP: "ATP RECEIVES INDEPENDENT SAFEGUARDING REPORT; ZVEREV INVESTIGATION ANNOUNCED" https://t.co/LkqSHSaXks
"An Independent Safeguarding Report, commissioned by the ATP earlier in the season, has been completed," the ATP press release said. "It represents a key element of the ATP's overall safeguarding review to ensure all adults and minors involved in professional tennis are safe and protected from abuse."
"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," it added.

Significantly, ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli asserted the need to address the "serious" allegations against Alexander Zverev. Calvelli stated that as an organization, the ATP is committed to take "meaningful steps" towards making tennis safe.

"The allegations raised against Alexander Zverev are serious and we have a responsibility to address them," Massimo Calvelli said. "We hope our investigation will allow us to establish the facts and determine appropriate follow-up action."
"As an organisation we recognise the need to be doing more to ensure everyone involved in professional tennis feels safe and protected," he added. "We are committed to making meaningful steps forward and know this won’t be an overnight process."

ATP's statement specifically mentioned the Shanghai 2019 Masters, where Alexander Zverev was spotted with scratch marks on his neck that Olya Sharypova alleged were a result of an altercation between them. But as many have noted on Twitter, there is no word yet about investigating the incident that Sharypova claimed took place at the 2019 Laver Cup in Geneva - which allegedly led to the Russian attempting suicide.

The Laver Cup is officially an ATP event, so it is unclear why the governing body's statement mentions only Shanghai and not Geneva.

"The accusations are defamatory and false" - Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev was a part of Laver Cup 2021
Alexander Zverev was a part of Laver Cup 2021

Alexander Zverev didn't take long to respond to the ATP's press release. The German put out a statement later on Monday reiterating that he "categorically and unequivocally" denies the allegations.

When the second part of Sharypova's interview was released on Slate, Zverev had declared that his German and American lawyers were initiating legal proceedings against the source and the author. The 24-year-old has now doubled down on that stance even in the face of the impending ATP investigation, alleging that the claims made in Rothenberg's article are "defamatory and false".

"I categorically and unequivocally deny any of these allegation," Zverev's statement on Monday read. "We have obtained a preliminary injunction against the publisher and the journalist of the false allegations which states, the accusations are defamatory and false."
"Nevertheless the publisher and the journalist are both in deliberate violation of this court order by refraining from taking down the reporting and continuing to push the allegations on social media repeatedly," it added. "My lawyers have initiated further proceedings."
A statement from Zverev in response to today's ⁦@atptour⁩ announcement: https://t.co/Z6aBlC2s6y

Alexander Zverev's two statements on the matter seem to suggest his team has obtained a court order demanding that the Slate article be taken down. However, it is unclear which court has issued that order, and whether it is legally binding on either Rothenberg or Slate.

Zverev also claimed he had been asking the ATP to investigate Sharypova's claims "for months", and that he fully supports the implementation of a domestic violence policy.

"I have always been in full support of the creation of an ATP domestic violence policy," Zverev's statement said. "Moreover, I welcome the ATP investigation in the matter and have been asking the ATP to initiate an independent investigation for months."

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Edited by Musab Abid
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