The organizers of the ongoing Madrid Open attracted controversy earlier on Friday, when they posted a press release on Twitter highlighting their new initiative against abuse. The campaign surprisingly included the name of Alexander Zverev, who has been accused of physically and emotionally abusing his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova. And that, predictably, didn't go down well with the Twitterverse.
The post, which has since been deleted by the Madrid Open social media team, was met with almost universal condemnation. Many questioned the Madrid team's decision to include Alexander Zverev in the anti-abuse initiative, especially since the German was never subjected to any investigation by the tennis authorities over the graphic allegations by his ex-girlfriend.
"It's hard to overstate how horrible it is that Zverev's on this list," one Twitter user wrote. "It's an admission that whoever put this together either doesn't know about Olya's story or sides with Zverev despite the fact that there's little to support his side and loads to support Olya's."
Alexander Zverev's name has been embroiled in the abuse case for over six months now, but the German has never publicly addressed the specific details of Olga Sharypova's claims. Zverev has in fact had several opportunities to do so, but he has repeatedly brushed aside Sharypova's story with a dismissive air.
Back when Sharypova first accused Zverev of abusing her over the course of their relationship, the 23-year-old denied the allegations outright. He also made comments like "I very much regret that she made such statements" and "I know that there are a lot of people who will be trying to wipe the smile off my face, but I’m still smiling under this mask", which betrayed serious insensitivity to the issue of abuse.
Alexander Zverev continues to receive support from the tennis establishment
Even though there has been no resolution to Olga Sharypova's claims, the ATP and general tennis establishment have continued to use Alexander Zverev as a poster boy.
The ATP had issued a statement last year that they wouldn't be able to take any action against any player unless there was a legal case against the player. And since Sharypova has decided not to press charges, there has been no investigation or even acknowledgement of the episode from the tennis authorities.
Regardless, it still made little sense to include Alexander Zverev in an initiative to help abuse victims take recourse. While Zverev may not have been convicted of any offense, the fact that such a serious matter concerning him is still up in the air should have been enough to distance the German from an anti-abuse campaign.
Several other tennis players were also listed as being part of the initiative, including Dominic Thiem, Naomi Osaka and Fernando Verdasco. The video of the campaign, which thankfully doesn't feature Zverev, will be broadcast soon on television, the press and the Caja Magica facilities.