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RECKLESS AND UNJUSTIFIED: NOVAK DJOKOVIC, ANDY MURRAY REACT TO ALEXANDER ZVEREV'S RACQUET-SMASHING TIRADE IN ACAPULCO
“The disqualification decision was not too harsh. I think it was correct under the circumstances,” said the world No. 1 following his win across the globe in Dubai.
Late Tuesday evening in Acapulco, Alexander Zverev was back in tennis headlines for the wrong reasons when he was dismissed from the Abierto Mexicano Telcel following a volatile tirade.
After losing his doubles match alongside Marcelo Melo in a match tiebreaker to Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara, Zverev aggressively swung his racquet three times at the chair umpire’s box while glaring at umpire Alessandro Germani. The official clearly felt vulnerable, as he moved his feet in response to the German’s explosion. Zverev then cursed out Germani, took another swipe with his mangled frame, and proceeded to sign autographs as if nothing happened.
Zverev’s behavior could not be ignored, leading to the defending singles champion being withdrawn from the tournament—he was still in the singles draw—by the ATP for unsportsmanlike conduct. The 24-year-old posted a statement on his Instagram story Wednesday morning, writing, “It is difficult to put into words how much 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.
“It just should not have happened and there is no excuse. I would also like to apologize to my fans, the tournament, and the sport that I love.”
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were both asked about the incident following their matches in Dubai Wednesday. Djokovic, who defeated Karen Khachanov, 6-3, 7-6 (2), could relate to being disqualified from a tournament following his unfortunate 2020 US Open experience—one that unlike Zverev’s was the result of an unintentional act. The world No. 1 agreed with the outcome handed down to Zverev.
“I made mistakes in the past where I've had tantrums on the court. I understand what the player is going through. But, of course, I do not justify his actions,” Djokovic told press after advancing to the quarterfinals.
“He has, with the words that he had in the statement, handled it in a right way. He said he made a mistake and his actions were not appropriate. I think the disqualification decision was not too harsh. I think it was correct under the circumstances.”
Like Djokovic, Murray admitted he’s reacted poorly in the heat of the moment before. That said, the three-time major champion believes Zverev went too far in expressing his emotions.
“It was dangerous, reckless,” Murray said in his press conference after falling to Jannik Sinner, 7-5, 6-2. “I'm certainly not claiming to be an angel. I'm not perfect myself.
“However, when you're ripping your tennis racquet right next to the umpire multiple times, you can't be doing that… It's graphite flying off the racquet, as well.”
In 2019, Nick Kyrgios received a record $113,000 fine for his string of behavior at Cincinnati’s Western & Southern Open and was suspended for 16 weeks. It’s plausible Zverev could be headed down the same path.
His track record when it comes to code of conduct is far from spotless, and there’s this lingering fact: the ATP has an open “internal” investigation looking into alleged domestic abuse claims made by Olga Sharypova against Zverev (the men's tour is yet to provide an update since publicly revealing plans to investigate on October 4, 2021).
Zverev concluded Wednesday’s apology note with this:
“As you know, I leave everything on the court. Yesterday, I left too much. I am going to take the coming days to reflect—on my actions and how I can ensure that it will not happen again. I am sorry for letting you down.”
Is saying sorry on social media and using deep pockets to pay the fine enough? A considerable suspension may be the only way to show Zverev what self-reflection means, in that his appalling Acapulco actions do not have a place in tennis. Not then, not now, not ever, period.