Novak Djokovic backs calls for domestic violence policy in tennis as his rival stands accused

Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photo: Fiona Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images

Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Photo: Fiona Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images

Novak Djokovic backed the idea of tennis developing a domestic violence policy while offering very public support to Alexander Zverev.

The German’s season ended with a 6-3 7-6 (4) loss to Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals, sending the world number one through to a semi-final clash against US Open champion Dominic Thiem on Saturday.

Zverev has been competing under the considerable shadow of serious abuse claims made by his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova.

He strongly denies the allegations, which were made by the former junior player on Instagram and in two media interviews, but has not addressed them in any detail.

The ATP had been criticised for not making any public comment until last week, when it issued a generic statement saying it “fully condemns any form of violence or abuse”.

Zverev is not the only tennis player to have faced similar allegations recently, with Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in court last month to answer an assault charge against his ex-wife.

Several major American sports have a policy setting out a procedure to be followed in such situations, and Djokovic believes tennis should go down the same route.

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He said: “I’ve known Sascha (Zverev) for a very long time since he was very young. I always had a great relationship with him, he’s a very nice guy, I have a lot of respect for him, his family. I was sad to hear that he’s going through something like this.

“I don’t know what happened. Obviously I’m not supporting any kind of violence. Whether ATP should develop a policy? Yes, why not. Probably it should be there in place.”

Tennis has largely closed ranks around Zverev, with Australian Daria Gavrilova a notable exception in saying she believes Sharypova, and Djokovic provoked critical responses by saying to his friend in a message on Twitter: “Best wishes in what awaits you on and off the court.”

Earlier he had told a press conference: “I sincerely wish for him that he overcomes this soon and that he can focus on his life and tennis career.”

Zverev again implied he would not be taking legal action – something Sharypova has also said – and, despite the allegations and the coronavirus pandemic, declared it had been a “great year”.

The 23-year-old said: “Unfortunately I lost a lot of big matches. I lost semi-finals in Australia, which I could have won. Lost the final of the US Open, which I should have won. Finals in Bercy (the Paris Masters). This match here.

“The US Open match obviously still hurts, but all the other ones, it’s great that I’m playing at this level again.”

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