- Zverev was convicted of domestic violence by German courts but continues to benefit from the support of the ATP.
- The ATP violates its own rules by not suspending the German despite his conviction.
- The media, who prefer to focus on Zverev’s successful comeback after his terrible ankle injury, also have their share of responsibility
Should we separate the man from the artist if he is prosecuted? The Me Too feminist revolution and the social debates that accompanied it offered a fairly categorical answer to the question, with a clear preference for ‘no’. This refusal has the advantage of forbidding alternative narratives in which the public figure, whether morally reprehensible or legally condemned (or both), might find refuge. In these encore stories, the genius can suffocate the bastard and his misdeeds and, by extension, make his victims invisible.
The ethical question surrounding the case of Alexander Zverev, sentenced by the Berlin court to a fine of 450,000 euros for domestic violence against his ex Brenda Patea, and whose violent behavior had already been denounced in October 2020 by another of his exes, Olga Sharypova fits into this complex framework. Or rather, she should.
In fact, regulars at the track don’t bother with these kinds of considerations much if they don’t turn a blind eye to convenience. With the exception perhaps of Ben Rothenberg, the journalist in whom Sharypova confided for hours to expose the moral and physical influence the Germans exerted during their toxic relationship. ” The first time [qu’il a été violent]“It was in Monaco, in her apartment,” the young woman said. I wanted to leave because we had a really big fight. I was in the hallway and he hit my head against the wall. »
She will fall, he will deny it. “He got scared and then started lying. He said I hit him first, he said he didn’t, he never did. » Among other things, one episode that will bring the Russian to despair: she will try in vain to commit suicide by injecting herself with insulin, which is printed on Zverev, who is now known to have diabetes.
“Denial, discomfort and difficulty in dealing with this topic”
But why talk about domestic violence when we can stick to an otherwise comfortable storyline, that of the German’s successful comeback (2 titles in 2023) after his dramatic exit from the short film Philippe Chatrier a year earlier, in tears and ankle in compote. The German channel RTL makes a fuss about it during the player’s rehabilitation, it follows him to the doctor, shows mother Zverev in tears, photos of Sascha as a child, how not to collapse, domestic violence, no, he is not like that, impossible… Even today, the vein is still exploited with every stumble of the German on a court, as was the case on Monday, during his participation in the ATP final against Carlos Alcaraz.
“I didn’t think about what happened against Nadal at Roland Garros because I knew my ankle wasn’t twisted. It was completely different,” Zverev reassured. I just slipped. » Or how to make a (potentially) dangerous man sympathetic (the famous alternate story we mentioned at the beginning, anyone?), at best through laziness, at worst through cowardice. “There is everything: denial, discomfort or difficulty in dealing with the issue, which prevents some from talking about it,” analyzes an informed observer of the men’s circuit. Some people would rather close their eyes than ask themselves these pointed questions. »
However, we need to talk about it. Giuseppina Sapio, lecturer at the University of Paris 8, is interested in media reporting on cases of violence against women, recalling the importance of the media in spreading the message of the Me Too movement.
The role of the media in the fight against male violence against women is recognized from an institutional perspective. It is even enshrined in Article 17 of the Istanbul Convention. [sur la prévention et la lutte contre la violence à l’égard des femmes et la violence domestique]. »
In the mixed zone of Bercy, for once the sense of duty did not touch many people: after his victory over Ugo Humbert, that is to say, a few hours after the announcement of his conviction, there was no doubt about what a yellow ball, and the worst Bercy in history (we also include ourselves). A British colleague will nevertheless save the company’s honor by asking a question about the said fine, which Sascha Zverev disputes. “I think it’s complete nonsense,” the player said Time. Anyone with an approximately normal IQ knows what it is.” Charming.
Zverev presented as ‘comeback king’ by the ATP
The ATP’s wait-and-see attitude must also be questioned. The body that manages men’s tennis was unsuccessfully approached by 20 minutes, continues to promote the image of the world number 7 on his social networks, just like any other player. On X (formerly Twitter) we present him as a “comeback king”, praising his elegance on the blue carpet rolled out in Turin before the Masters. On Insta he takes part in a competition led by Novak Djokovic, together with the six other finalists of the season… “What the institution could do is not do too much, advises Gilles Delanoë, specialist in crisis management for the cabinet- Heiderich, especially in the field of sports. It is a minimum to quote the player in the same way as the others. Doing interviews with the player might not be smart. Writing a lot about the player might not be smart either. That threatens to offend the public. » Among the various publications mentioned, we indeed find numerous reports of dissatisfaction.
Even more surprising and important: by burying its head in the sand, the ATP is violating its own statutes. In the absence of a policy against domestic violence, the ATP has said it will rely on the legal system. (ATP Rules 8.05 A (2) (c) and (d): A civil or criminal charge or conviction is sufficient grounds to suspend a player for “conduct contrary to the integrity of the game”). However, if it is contested by the player, according to German law the warrant sentence will only be issued if the judge has no doubt about the suspect’s guilt. There were photos, screenshots, testimonials and evidence of a contract offered to Brenda Patea to buy her silence in exchange for 100,000 euros, which she refused, reports the South German Zeitung…
The presumption of innocence? Zverev is of course entitled to this, but there are voices suggesting the idea of a preventive suspension, just like for athletes accused of doping. With the merit of avoiding this paradoxical situation where the semi-finalist continues to play at Roland-Garros while confidently walking the path to a very likely lawsuit. Law firm Schertz Bergmann, which is representing the player, said in a statement that the facts provided by Patea, “the only basis for the order, have already been rejected by a medical report.” Not so much a guarantee of absolution as the appropriation of the story through an attitude of counter-attack, by trying to remove the accuser from her position of ideal victim, accepted in the collective imagination. Giuseppina Sapio explains the idea:
The right victim can prove the violence she experienced. It’s very easy when we’re killed and we take a picture of ourselves, but we still have to think about it. But what do we do with psychological violence that sometimes has even more damaging consequences, or when we have experienced moral or administrative violence? [comme la rétention de passeport dont le soupçonne Olga Sharypova au cours d’une dispute à New-York en 2019] , knowing that these are more discredited than physical violence? »
Especially because victims of domestic violence often have the reflex to hide when the events occur. “I had collected the testimonies of a woman who was a victim of domestic violence,” the academic continues. She told me, “when I saw him starting to get angry, my first instinct was not to leave, but to close the windows so no one could hear.” »
The legal framework alone is no longer sufficient
In New York, Sharypova is said to have combined the two: fleeing the couple’s hotel room and hiding on a couch on the first floor of the building so that no one from the tennis world would notice her. So many factors that could explain why violent people get away with it on trial day due to a lack of solid evidence. The conclusion of the independent investigation conducted by the LFG company, on behalf of the ATP, into the Zverev/Sharypova case goes in this direction. “Due to the lack of reliable evidence and eyewitness accounts,” the court concluded in January, “as well as contradictory statements from Sharypova, Zverev and other interviewees, the investigation could not confirm the allegations of abuse or establish that violations of the ATP rules regarding fouls on the spot or fouls by big players. »
However, a moral judgment cannot be based on a conviction as the sole basis for such a young social subject, who is still poorly supervised by the justice system, says Sapio. “The legal framework would be sufficient in an ideal world, which is to say not in ours. It would actually be much simpler to allow our judgments to be guided by the legal framework. That would be reassuring. Unfortunately, the legal script cannot be the only interpretive framework through which we can read the world. This is why media debates have a certain importance in changing mindsets. They have the important function of bringing to the fore important social phenomena of today. » It is up to the actors, whether media or institutional, not to hide behind justice before asking themselves whether it is necessary to separate the man from the artist.