World No. 4 Alexander Zverev comes into the US Open on an 11-match win streak. With a victory (albeit in best-of-three set play) over Novak Djokovic, an Olympic gold medal and a Western & Southern Open title in hand, Zverev and his fans have plenty of reasons to believe this fortnight on the Grand Slam stage could be different after falling just two points short last year to Dominic Thiem at Flushing Meadows.

While the tennis community waits to see if his outcome is different on Arthur Ashe Stadium, it is also waiting to see if this major tournament will be remembered as a marker for reasons away from the court.

On Wednesday, journalist Ben Rothenberg published his follow-up story on Zverev’s former girlfriend Olya Sharypova. Reporting for Slate, Rothenberg’s piece further outlined the alleged abuse Sharypova experienced at the hands of Zverev throughout the 2019 ATP season.

The article, which can be read here, makes points beyond the detailing of purported attacks—for starters, the ATP’s lack of an existing domestic abuse policy, and how the organization is addressing its absence. There’s also the significant fact that if Sharypova wanted to seek legal action through a court system, her pathway isn’t straightforward, given her nationality, with Zverev’s country of citizenship and the alleged incidents taking place across four different countries.

Since Zverev was initially named last October in Sharypova’s interview with Russan website Championat, Zverev has firmly denied any wrongdoing. During his Paris Masters runner-up speech, he said, “I know that right now there are a lot of people who will be trying to wipe a smile off my face, but I'm still smiling under this mask. A week later, reading off his phone during his media commitments at the ATP Finals, the German said, “We had our ups and downs but the way our relationship is described in the public is not how it was. That’s not who I am, that’s not how I was raised by my parents. That’s not just simply who I am as a person.”


Zverev and Team8, the agency co-founded by Roger Federer, parted ways before the start of the 2021 season. Zverev, who returned to being managed by his family, also brought on a PR team. While Sharypova’s story didn’t go away, given the age of social media sharing, it didn’t remain at the forefront throughout much of Zverev’s eight months on tour this year, until Rothenberg’s follow-up was released.

On Friday, ahead of his US Open media day appearance, Zverev’s Twitter account released a statement in response to the article Slate published.

“I have engaged my German and American lawyers in the matter. They have already obtained a preliminary injunction against the source and the author who published the false allegations,” it read. “I categorically and unequivocally deny having abused Olya. I also fully support the creation of an ATP domestic violence policy. I will not address this matter any further.”

Soon after, this statement from Slate surfaced.

“Today we were informed that Alexander Zverev started legal proceedings in Germany against Slate following our report on alleged domestic abuse. Though Slate does not comment on pending litigation, we stand by our fair and accurate reporting based on multiple sources and interviews.”

Zverev’s press conference Friday afternoon began with two questions: one about his level of tennis and one regarding the way his 2020 event experience “fueled gas into the fire” entering this time around. Then, one reporter in the room inquired whether Zverev had prior knowledge about the Slate report.

“I've always said that the allegations and everything that has been said is untrue," Zverev said. "The court confirmed that. So there's nothing else to say from my side because, as I said, the court confirmed that it's untrue.”

But Zverev's response, confusing to some, only led to further interrogation.


Zverev practices Friday at Flushing Meadows.

Zverev practices Friday at Flushing Meadows.

After a couple more questions, The Guardian’s Tumaini Carayol followed-up when availability shifted to press covering the major virtually. Carayol, who stated, “I want to clarify exactly what you say the court confirmed. As far as I'm aware, you haven't had any trial or anything like that,” was also curious whether the German would be open to the ATP investigating Sharypova’s claims against him.

“I mean, what do you mean? We didn't go to trial. If the court confirmed it, the court confirmed it. There's nothing else that I can say,” Zverev said.

“I've actually asked the ATP myself for the past six months to have something. It's going to get sorted in these kind of situations. I think it's good that the ATP is kind of renewing their rules a little bit because they've been there since the '80s and nothing has been changed in a way.”

In 2019, with no domestic abuse policy in place, one pullout from that year’s ATP rulebook (page 186) read, “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site. For purposes of this rule, physical abuse is the unauthorized touching of an official, opponent, and spectator or other person.

“Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine up to $20,000 for each violation.”

Rothenberg noted in his reporting that he received confirmation in a statement from an ATP spokesperson that tournament hotels are included within the jurisdiction described in the rulebook. Multiple accounts by Sharypova occurred in Zverev's hotel room.


As for Sharypova, she reacted to Zverev’s latest answer by questioning the very court her ex was referring to.

“I’m not afraid of you, or your family, or your legal team, who apparently made German media stay quiet about my article,” she wrote on her Instagram account. “But after your statement, they wrote dozens of articles that you won a defamation case against me in court. Why am I not aware we went to court?”

In the first round of the season's final major, Zverev drew American Sam Querrey. The two are scheduled to play Tuesday, and while Zverev comes in with plenty of stellar results to talk about, his off-court accusations shouldn’t be buried at the expense of playing good tennis. As seen in today's press conference, both courts are likely to be talked about.