Alexander Zverev has come under fire after he signed up for the state-sponsored Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia as he has been accused of “allowing himself to be used as a puppet by the oil sheikhs”.
The German has been sidelined since June after tearing ligaments in his ankle during the French Open and he will miss the remainder of the 2022 season.
However, he has confirmed that he will play in the exhibition Diriyah Tennis Cup with 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medevedev the other player to have signed up for the 12-player event.
“I’m happy that I’ll finally be back on the court after my injury. It’s even nicer that I can make my comeback before the official start of the 2023 season,” Zverev said in a statement.
“I think the Diriyah Tennis Cup offers a very good opportunity for it and I’m looking forward to being in Saudi Arabia for the first time.”
Medvedev will return to Diriyah for a second time as he won the inaugural event in 2019.
The Russian said in his tournament preview: “When I have been in Diriyah in 2019, I loved everything there. The organization, the court, the fans, the people. Everything was super comfortable, so I’m really happy to have the opportunity to come back to Saudi Arabia in December.”
However, respected Swiss journalist Simon Häring has taken aim at Zverev for ignoring Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record to sign up for the lucrative state-sponsored tournament.
Saudi Arabia has come under fire in recent years for using sport to improve its reputation around the globe with the LIV Golf Invitational Series – funded by the government of Saudi Arabia – and the purchase of Premier League side Newcastle United – with financing coming from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund – the most recent examples of so-called “sportswashing”.
Writing for Aargauerzeitung.ch under the headline “How Alexander Zverev makes himself the puppet of Saudi oil billionaires”, Häring described the German’s participation as “problematic”.
Häring tried to get in touch by Zverev and his brother Mischa, who also acts as his manager, but they did not respond to six questions posed to them.
One of those questions was “As an athlete, how do you protect yourself from being used by a totalitarian regime for propaganda purposes?”
For now the questions remain unanswered and Häring believes Zverev’s silence means he is “missing an opportunity” to “draw attention to grievances and initiate change” in Saudi Arabia.
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