Novak Djokovic won what was effectively a quarter-final at the O2 Arena, beating Alexander Zverev in straight sets. Afterwards, he offered a vote of support to his defeated opponent over the recent domestic-abuse controversy.
Over the last three weeks, Zverev has been repeatedly accused of violent conduct by his former girlfriend Olga Sharypova, also known as Olya.
Starting with an interview with the Russian website Championat, Sharypova has told various interviewers that Zverev had – among other things – tried to choke her with a pillow and banged her head against a wall.
Djokovic was asked about Zverev’s personal issues in Friday night’s post-match press conference and, while agreeing with the suggestion that the men’s tour should bring in an official policy on domestic violence, Djokovic commended Zverev – whom he described as “a very nice guy” – on the way he has dealt with the situation.
“I have not talked with him about that specific case,” the world No 1 said of Zverev. “He’s been handling it well, by the looks of his results in the last month and a half or so.
“He’s been doing well considering he’s got a lot on his plate off the court. So I sincerely wish, for him, that he overcomes this soon and that he can focus on his life and tennis career.”
As for whether the Association of Tennis Professionals should bring in a code on domestic violence, like the ones used in American leagues such as the NFL and the NBA, Djokovic said “Obviously I’m not supporting any kind of violence. Whether ATP should develop a policy … I mean, why not?
“Probably it should be there in place. But I guess it wasn’t developed because we just did not have the cases like this previously.”
Zverev was also asked twice about Sharypova’s allegations on Friday night. On the issue of whether the other players were reacting any differently to him since she went public with her claims, he replied “They are all fine to me. I mean, the relationship between me and the players won’t change. They know what’s going on.”
And on whether he would take any action during the off-season to clear his name, Zverev replied “I have said everything that I can. It’s very unfortunate that these kind of false allegations can put such damage … but it’s the world we live in right now, unfortunately.”
The case has cast a shadow over this tournament, and it is hard to see how it can be resolved when neither party seems to be interested in litigation. This was the point made by the ATP when they released a general statement on domestic violence a week ago.
“In circumstances where … legal authorities investigate and due process is applied, we then review the outcome and decide the appropriate course of action,” the statement said. “Otherwise, we are unable to comment further on specific allegations.”
To return to the tennis, Djokovic was relatively untroubled in the last relevant match in the “Tokyo 1970” group. He made a flying start, winning eight of the first nine points, and then kept his nose ahead until he had completed a 6-3, 7-6 victory.
The win means that he has qualified for the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals for the ninth time in 13 attempts.
The semi-final line-up will pit two of the old masters against two of their younger rivals. Rafael Nadal will play Daniil Medvedev in a rematch of the 2019 US Open final, while Djokovic will face Dominic Thiem in a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final.
There can be little argument that these are the four best hard-court players in the game and the way the last-four has fallen, will provide two intriguing battles.