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The Laver Cup has returned amid much fanfare, but how long will it try to cover up the allegations against Alexander Zverev?

Alexander Zverev at the 2021 Lave
Alexander Zverev at the 2021 Laver Cup

Alexander Zverev is being hailed as "The Hero of Geneva 2019" by those who call the shots up top. Perhaps not even Zverev himself would have expected his life and image to remain this unaffected amid the very serious allegations of domestic abuse leveled against him by his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova.

A major contender returns to Team Europe in his best form. @AlexZverev #RoadToBostonbit.ly/3nMroE4 https://t.co/XySsFMSPdL

After a break last year, the Laver Cup is back in 2021. Boston is the chosen venue for the fourth edition of the star-studded event, and judging by the marketing you'd think everything is just as it was in the first three years.

For the uninitiated, the Laver Cup is an exhibition tournament that was started in 2017 to act as tennis' annual showpiece event (akin to the NBA All-Star game). A brainchild of Roger Federer, the event is designed to make the sport more fun and appealing and increase its popularity worldwide.

The Laver Cup has had three completed and successful editions, with the venue alternating between Europe and the United States. It is contested between two teams - Team Europe and Team World - with the latter mostly comprised of players from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Admittedly, the Laver Cup has done quite well in giving the fans eclectic entertainment and also some iconic moments. Backed firmly by the game's greatest ambassadors in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with even Novak Djokovic playing the 2018 edition, the exhibition event was accorded the status of an official ATP tournament in 2019.

None of the Holy Triad is playing this year (although Roger Federer is on-site), so there have been a lot of questions about how much appeal the Laver Cup will be able to retain for its 2021 edition. However, the Big 3's absence isn't the biggest problem with the event this year.

Rather, the worrying aspect for many is the presence of someone else, someone who is being sold as the face of the tournament. Someone with detailed accusations of domestic assault - the most horrifying incident of which allegedly occurred at this very event in 2019 - leveled against him.

That someone is, of course, Alexander Zverev.

The Laver Cup's Alexander Zverev problem

Alexander Zverev's been hiding skeletons behind his "heroic" 2019 Laver Cup triumph
Alexander Zverev's been hiding skeletons behind his "heroic" 2019 Laver Cup triumph

Alexander Zverev has been a fixture at the Laver Cup ever since its inaugural edition in 2017. The tournament played a huge role in Zverev becoming a fan favorite, especially since he was often the focal point of the action.

The German is the Laver Cup's most successful player alongside Roger Federer, and he won the event for his team (Europe) in both of the previous two editions. Apart from the Swiss legend, if someone has made the competition his own, it is definitely Alexander Zverev.

To add to that, Zverev has seen his popularity soar even further in recent months due to his golden Olympic run. The 24-year-old beat Novak Djokovic in the Tokyo semis, before pushing the Serb again at the US Open last month.

Given those factors, on the surface it makes sense that the Laver Cup would promote Alexander Zverev as its main attraction while the three GOATs are away. But dig just a little deeper, and you are forced to question how the tournament could even invite Zverev this year - let alone make him the biggest selling point.

It's not just about the German's domestic abuse allegations, which are well-documented. There's also the small but crucial detail about a Laver Cup official being allegedly involved in covering up a crime during the tournament's 2019 edition.

Towards the end of last year, Alexander Zverev's ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova made a series of claims of having suffered domestic abuse at the hands of the tennis star. And a month ago, the second part of Sharypova's story - with an even more detailed version of the trauma she allegedly faced during her tumultuous relationship with Alexander Zverev - was released on Slate magazine.

The latest account stunned everyone, including those who once called themselves die-hard fans of Alexander Zverev. And the specific incident that sent a chill down the spine of most readers was the one that purportedly took place in Geneva, during the 2019 Laver Cup.

Sharypova claimed that it was in Geneva where, exhausted by the physical and emotional abuse from Zverev, she made an attempt to end her life by injecting herself with insulin. The Russian would later be rescued by Zverev from the couple's hotel room, supposedly with the help of a Laver Cup official.

Sharypova did name the official, as stated by the author of the two articles, but that official declined to offer a comment when contacted.

Alexander Zverev was seemingly unaffected by the incident as he went on to beat Milos Raonic in a sudden-death match to give his team a third consecutive title. The German was feted as the talisman of Team Europe, the hero of the 2019 Laver Cup.

But the 2019 Laver Cup is also where he allegedly pushed his partner towards suicide. That has brought a haunting feeling in retrospect to many fans, who are now wondering whether they celebrated an alleged abuser at the very scene of his crime.

A lot of people cannot detach the Laver Cup from Sharypova's story, and so they are finding it difficult to watch the event this year without guilt and anger. The Russian's claim that a Laver Cup official was involved in covering up the incident also attaches the competition and its organizers to the alleged crime, which makes the whole event suspect.

The Laver Cup organizers themselves aren't doing much to allay the suspicions. If re-inviting Alexander Zverev to the competition wasn't enough, the tournament's official Twitter account has also been blocking fans who bring up the domestic abuse allegations on Zverev.

Even those who have purchased tickets for this year's event in Boston have not been spared, as the tweet below shows.

So, here’s my #LaverCup blocked story. This is how they treat *even* ppl who have tickets for their event. (Bought them years ago): https://t.co/XlhH5tF2vb

By any standard, and irrespective of whether you believe Olga Sharypova's story or not, blocking fans on Twitter is a highly unprofessional way of dealing with the allegations. It not only shows the Laver Cup's eagerness to sidestep their accountability over a serious issue, but also raises doubt about the tournament's integrity.

Even if you didn't think earlier that a Laver Cup official was involved in the cover-up, you certainly suspect foul play now.

Blocking fans over Alexander Zverev allegations shows the Laver Cup is hiding from responsibility

"I have so many incredible memories from the event and particularly from that final match in Geneva in 2019"

Without context, this seems like a harmless comment by one of the winners of the 2019 edition of the Laver Cup. But when you think about what possibly went on behind the scenes that year, this statement by Alexander Zverev seems like that of a psychopath.

This is an attempt at gloating in the faces of all those who believe Olga Sharypova's version of events. It is a statement made on purpose, to tell the world that Alexander Zverev looks back at Geneva with nothing but beautiful memories.

Again, keep aside your opinion about the veracity of Sharypova's claims for a moment. Even if her story is untrue, nobody can possibly think that Geneva 2019 has only happy memories. There is still an allegation, irrespective of whether it is true or not, so the event does have a tinge of grey around it.

But Alexander Zverev is trying to convey that the story of how he supposedly drove his then 22-year-old partner to suicide deserves no acknowledgement or mention, and not even a thought.

Zverev is not alone in that though.

Alexander Zverev will headline Europe's 2021 Laver Cup campaign
Alexander Zverev will headline Europe's 2021 Laver Cup campaign

For the better part of the last 10 months, the ATP has tried to absolve itself of any responsibility in the matter. Their argument is that there has been no legal complaint filed by Olga Sharypova, so they have no option but to ignore the whole issue.

In fact, it seems quite apparent that the professional body has been pulling out the big guns to subtly defend Alexander Zverev. Tournaments on the ATP tour have apparently been instructed not to entertain any questions relating to the allegations during Zverev's media interactions.

But unlike with the other ATP tournaments and Majors, which are governed by certain ranking and legal boundaries, the Laver Cup is relatively more independent. On the face of things, it seemingly has the freedom to take a stand and refuse to invite Alexander Zverev until he clears his name.

Some argue that since the Laver Cup is owned by 'Team8', a sports management company that managed Zverev until they split earlier this year, it is possible that their hands are tied. The organizers could well be bound by an agreement with Team8 to keep inviting their former client to the event.

But surely it is not Laver Cup's responsibility to protect Alexander Zverev's image? And surely there couldn't have been anything in the agreement which would force them to block everyone who brings up Sharypova's story?

Maybe inviting Alexander Zverev to this year's event wasn't a voluntary decision. But vehemently defending him - and alienating tennis fans in the process - is certainly a choice.

You can't help but wonder whether the Laver Cup is trying to hide its own involvement in the entire incident. Is it possible that they think following Zverev's lead, and refusing to take any accountability, is the best way to save their own backsides?

On second thought, that doesn't just sound possible; it sounds likely. Why else would a tournament go out of the way to protect one of its players, at the cost of cutting ties with hundreds of fans (and even ticket-holders)?

Inviting Alexander Zverev to the tournament was already questionable, but defending him by blocking fans on Twitter is unpardonable.

The fans, of course, refuse to be silenced. They have continued to post links to Sharypova's interviews under Laver Cup's tweets, and a few have even attempted to start a trend to boycott the event. In response, the Laver Cup social media team has seemingly decided to limit the content they post on Alexander Zverev.

But that might be a case of too little too late, as Alexander Zverev will soon take to the court at the 2021 Laver Cup. The German will likely be introduced as "the Hero of Geneva 2019" anyway, and come Sunday he might become "the hero" of another Laver Cup triumph.

Maybe that is what our sport stands for now. Protecting, and championing, alleged domestic abusers.

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Edited by Musab Abid
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