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Alexander Zverev domestic abuse allegations: What to know

Editor’s note: This has been updated from a version that originally ran on January 25, 2024.

PARIS — Alexander Zverev will play in the third round of the French Open against Tallon Griekspoor on Saturday. As the 27-year-old German bids to reach a fourth straight semi-final at the tournament — or beyond — he remains at the center of allegations of domestic abuse in his home country. On Friday, his trial began in Berlin — bringing the allegations back to the fore.

Here’s what you need to know about the case:


What are the charges against Zverev?

According to an October court document, Zverev is accused of “physically abusing and harming the health of a woman during an argument in Berlin in May 2020.” The woman is his former partner, Brenda Patea, who is also the mother of his daughter. (ESPN does not normally name alleged victims of domestic abuse, but Patea went public with her allegations.) In an interview, Patea said Zverev pushed her into a wall and choked her.

On 2 October 2023, a criminal court issued a fine of €450,000 (approximately US$488,000) and a penalty order against Zverev. Under German law, such an order can be used when there is compelling evidence to support the charge and a trial is not deemed necessary. Defendants have the right to appeal the order, which then results in a public trial. Zverev appealed the order and legally maintains the presumption of innocence pending trial.

On November 1, Zverev called the punishment order “complete bulls—” when speaking to the media at the Paris Masters event. “Anyone with a semi-standard IQ level knows what this is about,” Zverev said without further explanation.


Were there previous allegations against Zverev?

Yes. Olya Sharypova, another previous partner of Zverev and a former tennis player, went public on Instagram in October 2020 with allegations of abuse in various places around the world, including cities where ATP tournaments were held.

In a series of media interviews shortly after, Sharypova described several instances of violence, including Zverev allegedly punching her in the face, as well as suffocating her with a pillow as she struggled to breathe . She said she feared for her life.

Zverev has denied the allegations. Sharypova did not go to the police, but the ATP hired an outside firm to look into her claims. After a 15-month investigation that included interviews with Sharypova, Zverev and 24 others, the ATP announced on 31 January 2023 that it would not punish Zverev because there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations. The ATP has not published a full report of its findings.

“From the very beginning, I have maintained my innocence and denied the baseless allegations made against me,” Zverev said in a statement released later that day. “I welcomed and cooperated fully with the ATP investigation and am grateful for the organization’s time and attention to this matter.”


What happened on the first day of Zverev’s trial on Friday?

According to The Guardian, the prosecutor detailed the court’s allegations. According to the prosecutor, Zverev allegedly pushed Patea against a wall and strangled her with both hands following a “heated argument” at a Berlin apartment in May 2020. Patea then had difficulty breathing and swallow for a few days afterwards. Patea did not speak in court, but was present.

Zverev’s lawyer, Alfred Dierlamm, called the allegations “baseless and contradictory” and said his team would share evidence from witnesses and chat messages that would provide “an objective view of events”. The defense also asked that the rest of the trial be held behind closed doors to protect the privacy of Zverev, as well as their young daughter.

The trial was then adjourned for the day. The judges have not yet ruled on this request.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Monday.


Did Zverev say anything about the trial while in Paris?

Before the start of the tournament, Zverev told reporters during his press day press conference that he would not participate in the trial nor would it affect his game.

“At the end of the day, I believe in the German system,” Zverev said. “I also believe in the truth. I have to make sure that, you know, I know what I did, I know what I didn’t do.

“That’s what, at the end of the day, is going to come out and I have to trust that. You know, everything else is out of my hands. Not out of my hands, but I don’t think so. i will lose this procedure (sic). I have no chance.

“That’s why I can play calmly and I think my results showed that. To win (the title in) Rome (at the beginning of May) I think it’s also an important title and obviously to be here. And if it was In the mind my, I wouldn’t play the way I am.”

Zverev declined to answer a question about the process after his second-round win on Thursday.

“I said everything before the tournament,” he said.


Does ATP have a domestic abuse policy?

Not. While other leagues, such as the NBA and NFL, have specific policies related to abuse and domestic violence, the ATP does not.

In October 2021, while announcing that it would investigate the initial claims against Zverev, the ATP said it had commissioned and received an independent safeguards report.

“The ATP will now assess the recommendations to identify immediate next steps and develop a longer-term safeguarding strategy related to all matters of abuse, including domestic violence,” the organization said in a statement.

In March 2023, ATP hired Andrew Azzopardi as Director of Safeguarding. A specific policy has not yet been published. The ATP has a more general code of conduct policy that outlines potential penalties for “behaviour contrary to the integrity of the game”, including those charged with an offence.

“A player or a related person charged with violating a criminal or civil law of any jurisdiction may, by virtue of such charge, be deemed to have engaged in conduct contrary to the integrity of the Game of Tennis and the ATP Members’ Fines Committee may provisionally suspend such player, or an associated person, from further participation in ATP tournaments, until a final decision of the criminal or civil proceeding,” the ATP 2024 rules state.

When asked in January for clarity on Zverev and the code of conduct, the ATP issued a statement to ESPN.

“We are aware of the upcoming legal process involving Alexander Zverev and will not comment until the process is complete.”

Zverev was named a member of the ATP Players Advisory Council earlier this year. After his first-round win at the Australian Open, the questions during the English-language portion of his press conference focused entirely on his position on the Council. Because he was voted into the leadership position — which makes recommendations to the ATP on behalf of players — by his peers, he said members of the media were the only ones who thought his role was inappropriate.

“Journalists say that, some, who are actually more interested in this story to write about and more about clicks than the real truth,” Zverev said.

Zverev was also featured extensively in an episode of the current season of Netflix’s “Break Point,” which was released on January 10. Charges were not mentioned.


Have any of his peers spoken out about the allegations, the trial or his role on the ATP Players Advisory Council?

While several players were asked in the days following the announcement of the trial date during Australian Open press conferences, most said they were unable to comment. Alex de Minaur said he was “good at playing tennis” but “not good at making political decisions” and that he was “going to stay away from that and focus on tennis”. Stefanos Tsitsipas said he was “completely unfamiliar” with the situation.

“I haven’t had much time to think about it and I don’t really have an opinion at the moment,” Casper Ruud said. “But yeah, I’m not exactly sure how to react to that, so I won’t give you a good answer. Sorry.”

Grigor Dimitrov, who is also a member of the Council, initially said he did not want to comment because he was unaware of the situation, before acknowledging Zverev’s recent election to the position.

“I think everyone needs to sit together and discuss all of this,” Dimitrov said. “This is my message on this. Of course now these things that are coming, personally, I did not know. So I’m sure if you ask all the other guys, it’s something that, if need be, I think we’ll all go. to sit down and talk about it.”

Sloane Stephens, who recently completed a term on the WTA Players Council, said the WTA players would not have elected someone facing such allegations.

“I think the ATP kind of beats its own drum,” Stephens said. “Yeah, they do what they do on that side. Would that happen on the WTA Tour? Probably not.”

Stephens admitted Zverev’s presence on the tour was a “difficult situation” and said he hoped the lawsuit would “stop it”.

“There’s a lot of speculation and allegations,” Stephens said. “I think at this point for the tournament and for the fans it has to end. I think that’s going to happen. People are going to get what they want whenever it’s going to be his attempt. We’re just going to go from there. I think the ATP they will then decide what to do with their player after that…

“For three years nobody did anything, so I don’t think five more months of waiting for a criminal trial, I think it’s going to happen, it’s going to change a lot on both sides.”

Iga Swiatek, the top-ranked women on the tour, said she was “not in the right position to judge” but said she was disappointed that Zverev had been voted into the Council.

“It’s definitely not good when a player facing allegations like that is kind of promoted,” Swiatek said.

Since then, few players have spoken about the trial or the allegations.

In an interview with “Clay” in March, Yannick Hanfmann — who was Zverev’s teammate on Germany’s Davis Cup team — said he would respect the outcome of the trial, whatever it was.

“I know what he’s accused of, but I don’t know if he’s guilty or not,” Hanfmann said. “So hopefully we get (the court) to figure it out. And then if he’s innocent, we don’t have to talk about it anymore and we move on. If he’s guilty, we’ll probably have to remove him from the Council. And ATP will have to do something”.

After a doubles match at the French Open on Friday, Andy Murray said it should be the ATP — not the players — who should answer questions about Zverev being allowed to play while his trial is pending ongoing.

“It’s the ATP that should make the decision and make the policy for what it would look like,” Murray told reporters. “I don’t think (the ATP) has done a particularly good job over the last few years with, I don’t know what the word is in terms of, you know, these situations where you might ask me about it in the press. , like, it’s not up to us to come up with those policies, it’s the governing body’s decision.


What if he was found guilty during his trial?

This might be one of the biggest unknowns right now. Zverev remains in Paris at the moment and the trial is expected to continue on non-consecutive days, with dates also scheduled during the main draw at Wimbledon.

According to the BBC, he could be asked to attend the trial in person later if necessary, and the punishment for someone found guilty of a domestic abuse charge in Germany ranges from a fine to five years in prison. Zverev would likely pay the original amount of the fine issued to him in October.

The ATP has not publicly shared how it would punish Zverev if found guilty.