A few weeks ago, World #3 Alexander Zverev found himself extremely heated with a number of bad calls during his doubles match in Acapulco–and given the situation of some, understandably so. What was not understandable was his reaction to him and his partner Marcelo Melo losing the match. The German went up to the umpire and repeatedly smashed his racquet on the umpire’s chair, almost hitting the umpire as well as shouting, “You f***ing destroyed the whole f***ing match. The whole f***ing match.” Before this he also verbally abused a line umpire with “It’s f***ing your line. You f***ing idiot.”
After all the events Zverev released a statement saying the generic likes of “I regret my behavior during and after the doubles match yesterday,” “I have privately apologized to the chair umpire because my outburst towards him was wrong and unacceptable, and I am only disappointed in myself,” as well as “I would also like to apologize to my fans, the tournament and the sport that I love.”
Despite the apologies, the defending champion of the singles event was withdrawn for “unsportsmanlike conduct” and in the 13 days since the occurrence, the ATP has “investigated” the event. Many wondered if the 24-year-old would get a temporary ban from tour or if once again a popular player would “get away” with it.
We finally have our answer, with the ATP Senior Vice President of Rules and Competition, Miro Bratoev, having completed his review on the whole incident. The outcome is that the German will receive a further fine of $25,000 USD (in addition to the $71,570 he already lost) and more importantly an eight-week suspension from the ATP Tour.
Given the whole incident, that seems quite fair on paper. It’s a large enough monetary fine and an eight-week ban would see him miss out on some of the biggest ATP events on the tour such as Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, and Rome–a few which he has won in the past. It’s a great message to send other players on tour that such behavior is unacceptable and not tolerated.
Why the Alexander Zverev ‘Punishment’ is Embarrassing
But then the ATP ruin it all by simply saying the additional fine and suspension are withheld if the former US Open finalist does not act in an “unsportsmanlike conduct such as disrespectful or aggressive behavior directed towards an official, opponent, spectator, or other person during or upon conclusion of a match” and does not “verbally or physically abuse an official, opponent, spectator, or any other person while on-court or on-site” in the next year.
It’s embarrassing. The ATP simply isn’t fit to run the world’s biggest tennis tour when they can’t even hand out relevant and fitting punishments without clauses which essentially get players a get out of jail card. We’ve seen it in the past, too. Several times with Nick Kyrgios, who’s only been fined $25,000 USD for “tanking” on court as well as €17,000 EUR for throwing a chair, amongst countless other incidents. The fact is, the ATP aren’t scared to give monetary penalties to players but when it comes to anything more, simply aren’t up to the job.
If the ATP actually stood up against such behavior from the beginning we surely wouldn’t be in such a position to begin with. Despite it being an accident, we saw Canadian Denis Shapovalov hit a ball in anger at umpire so badly that the umpire ended up needing eye surgery, and no ban resulted. Like I previously mentioned, for Kyrgios’ 10+ incidents over the years, there also hasn’t been a ban. Now in the case of Zverev, yet another time where there’s no real ban unless he messes up again. Would he really mess up again now knowing the punishment in store for him? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t make the punishment any better.
If you punish such behavior, which let’s be honest, is disgusting and a bad example for kids watching at home, it would stop. You’re giving some of the best players in the world a monetary fine which is a slap on the wrist given how much they’re earning. What incentive do they have to not have insane aggressive outbursts when there’s barely any consequence? What’s the point of even having rules against such behavior when they’re essentially meaningless?
I understand the German is the World #3 and in times where Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic aren’t playing in regular events for different reasons, there’s no doubt the tour needs as many of the best players as they can get playing the biggest events, but that shouldn’t influence any decision here. Zverev deserved a suspension off tour just as Kyrgios and others in the past. It doesn’t matter how big or popular of a player you are, the rules need to be applied properly and fairly.
It’s also worth noting that due to this incident, many have also remembered the two-time ATP Tour Finals’ winner ex-girlfriend claiming he physically abused her in the past, one time during an ATP event (Laver Cup). Without putting two and two together, such a violent outburst has made some tennis fans more inclined to believe Olga Sharypova. The reason I mention this is because the ATP have claim they’re “investigating” all of this yet over five months on from this statement, nothing has been said. What’s perhaps just as worrying is that these claims have been going around for over 18 months yet it took so long for the ATP to warrant an investigation. Make of that what you will.
If you want to make an example, you set an example, and the ATP has not in handling several Alexander Zverev incidences. They’ve made themselves look weak, but I can’t say it’s much of a surprise as since the appointing of Andrea Gaudenzi as the ATP President in 2020, the tour has left a lot to be desired. If any of this is to improve, a change at the top of the ATP hierarchy is needed.
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