Why The ATP Cannot Remain Silent On Players Facing Domestic Abuse Accusations

Alexander Zverev

There are currently two high-profile players on the ATP Tour who have recently been accused of domestic abuse. Alexander Zverev and Nikoloz Basilashvili are the players in question, who both face very serious allegations. To add to this, they are set to play each other in the third round at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. The ATP have continued to remain completely silent on either domestic abuse matter, and both men have been allowed to compete on tour without any form of warning.

The Silence from the ATP On Domestic Abuse is Deafening

Basilashvili’s Court Case

The ATP’s continuous silence on both these cases is shocking to say the least. Along with saying nothing on either set of allegations, they haven’t sanctioned either player and have also continued to promote Zverev–a top player–on a regular basis. It’s important here that we are aware of what Basilashvili and Zverev are accused of.

In May last year, it was reported that Basilashvili had been arrested for an alleged assault on his ex-wife in front of their five year-old son. This is still an ongoing court case, and there is still no verdict on whether or not the Georgian player is guilty. The case has gained a huge amount of attention in Georgia and is widely known as a very high profile case across the country.

While it may be a big case in Basilashvili’s home nation, it’s not a huge story across the tennis media. Plenty of people have heard about it, but nowhere near enough. No doubt the ATP’s silence on the matter has played a role in this. If they don’t make any official announcements on these matters, then not enough fans will hear about it.

It’s important to note here that the ATP are of course within their rights to not be outspoken about an ongoing court case. However, this doesn’t give them the right to not say a single thing. Even just acknowledging the allegations and condemning domestic violence would be a start. Many sports often suspend players when they’re under investigations such as this. This will often last until they have either cleared their name or served their punishment if guilty.

However, the ATP haven’t put out statements acknowledging this or strongly condemning domestic abuse, let alone suspend Basilashvili or even put him on a form of probation. For his own right, Basilashvili is counter-suing his wife for defamation, so perhaps the ATP is waiting until the case is resolved.

Zverev’s Accusations

Last November, Zverev’s ex-girlfriend, Olya Sharypova, made a number of very serious accusations of domestic abuse towards the German tennis player. In a lengthy post on Instagram, she described the traumatic experience she went through during her relationship with Zverev. She later went on to meet with journalist Ben Rothenberg, who did a full story uncovering her side of what happened to her in the relationship.

The details of the abuse she has accused Zverev of are included in Sharypova’s account linked above. She alleges both mental and physical abuse, including an incident where she feared for her life after he held a pillow over her face. She claims to have run away to hide in the hotel they were staying at, where she messaged a friend for help. The disturbing allegations have not gone to court, as Sharypova hasn’t pressed charges and has claimed that she doesn’t wish to.

Zverev’s response to these claims were also rather troubling. After giving a rather blanket denial, he then went on to say that he was still smiling and that everything was great in his life after reaching the Paris Masters final. This rather arrogant response has further led many fans to be inclined to believe Sharypova.

As it currently stands, it’s almost her word against his. Though a lot of tennis fans believe he is guilty, the lack of a court case gives the ATP even less reason to take action. However, even if there was a court case ongoing, it’s clear from Basilashvili’s situation that he’d still be free to play without a word from the ATP.

The ATP’s Bizarre Response

To this day, these allegations are still not well-known. There is no doubt that there’s been a big effort in sweeping these stories under the carpet, which cannot continue to go on.

When the allegations about Zverev first came to light, the ATP stopped posting anything about him for a short while. While a lot of people still haven’t heard about the accusations, there were enough who knew at the time that the ATP decided against posting anything to do with him. As he’s a Top 10 player, this was certainly noticeable. With Basilashvili, he’s not as high profile as Zverev so the ATP can get away with not posting about him.

Then, all of a sudden, they started promoting the German player again. Pretty much since the start of 2021, it’s as if the ATP has decided to pretend the accusations don’t exist anymore. Did they think that the start of a new year would simply erase these issues? They are not the only ones guilty of this. All of the Grand Slam social media accounts post about him as well. All one needs to do is to read the responses to these posts to know that people are not impressed with this constant promotion.

Why Is The ATP’s Response So Damaging?

Many tennis fans who are aware of these allegations simply don’t want to watch either player anymore. Zverev more so, as he has been winning a lot of matches in recent times and is constantly on our screens. The more people who hear about the accusations these players are facing, the less likely they are to watch their matches.

The longer the ATP remain silent, the more uncomfortable fans feel. None of us are sure if the accusations are true or not, but knowing what the allegations are and the evidence that has been provided with them, it’s difficult to deal with when we see them on our screens week after week.

This article is not necessarily saying that both players should be suspended. Though it would be a fair call in many ways, the ATP is clearly not in a position where they feel comfortable doing so. As neither player has been proven guilty, they are still free to play no matter what under the current policies.

One thing we know for certain is that the ATP could and should be doing far more than they currently are. And, at some point, the ATP Tour needs a cohesive domestic abuse policy. The sport would be better off, as a whole, if there were clear and consistent rules, that were actually applied. It would give fans more confidence in the sport’s integrity, and it’s just the right thing to do.

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