November 8, 2020

On the Court...and Off

Earlier today, Russia's Daniil Medvedev made an eleventh hour move to get his season back on track, picking up the title in Paris, his third Masters trophy, in the last big event before the year-end championships in London.

Of course the story that really captured everyone's attention this week was that of his final opponent Alexander Zverev, who late last month was accused by his ex-girlfriend Olya Sharypova of physical and mental abuse. (If you haven't read her account of what happened, please do.) Another ex also revealed she's having his baby and seemed to suggest he'll have no part in raising the child.

I don't often talk about the off-court lives of players here, but this instance seems especially poignant. Zverev has denied the accusations, but after today's loss gave commentary that probably won't win him any fans:
"I know that there's gonna be a lot of people that right now are trying to wipe a smile off my face but under this mask I'm smiling brightly. I feel incredible on court [...] everything is great in my life. The people who are trying can keep trying."
It's only the latest scandal to hit Zverev this year. A mainstay on Novak Djokovic's ill-fated Adria Tour over the summer, he was caught on video partying, maskless, after so many players he was with had tested positive for COVID. A few months later, after his fourth round loss at Roland Garros he admitted he played despite a hundred degree fever and cough, raising questions again of whether he'd exposed others to the deadly virus.

But this accusation hits in the gut so much harder. Sure, we haven't heard Zverev's side of the story -- only that the relationship ended a long time ago, which I'm sure I'm not the only one to point out isn't really a reponse -- but what we've read already has inspired a flood of support for Olya and calls for the ATP to suspend Zverev from the Tour.

So far the allegations haven't seemed to distract him from his game -- he was able to manage a win over Rafael Nadal in the Paris semis and, thanks in part to his first Major final in New York, will be returning to London for the fourth time. But the mood around him there -- even with no audience in attendence -- has certainly soured.

And for what it's worth, I'm hoping Olya's the one that comes out of this stronger.

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