Less than six months ago, Alexander Zverev came forward with a gesture so selfless it instantly won the hearts of Australians.
He pledged to donate to the bushfire appeal $10,000 for every match he won at the Australian Open, and his full $4 million prize if he won the tournament.
Now he’s being taken down by Australia’s leading male tennis star, Nick Kyrgios, for his “selfishness”, and branded as “wildly self-centred” by one of the game’s most-respected voices.
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That’s a stunningly-rapid fall from grace for the 23-year-old, but one that’s entirely representative of the nature of 2020.
Life can change in an instant — and it certainly has for the world No.7 who now must pick up the pieces of his shattered reputation.
Zverev busted partying up
The tidal wave of condemnation descending upon Zverev has been entirely of his own-doing.
Mere days after somehow escaping Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour without coronavirus, footage emerged of him partying at a busy Monaco bar.
This was released at a time he was meant to be self-isolating having been in close contact with Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki and Goran Ivanisevic, who all tested positive for coronavirus last week.
“How selfish can you be?” Kyrgios questioned.
NY Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg said: “This is my concern with tennis attempting to come back mid-pandemic: not that precautions can’t be taken, but that too many tennis players are conditioned to be wildly self-centred and have no concept of how to act for the greater interest of a larger group.”
Infuriating the tennis world further was that Zverev claimed he had already learnt a lesson.
He was part of the shirtless crew — including Djokovic — that were torched for limboing in a nightclub post-play in Serbia, and mid-pandemic.
When so many of his colleagues were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Croatia days later, Zverev apologised in a statement.
Kyrgios torches Zverev
“I deeply apologise to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour,” the 23-year-old said in a statement. “I will proceed to follow the self-isolating guidelines advised by our doctors. As an added precaution my team and I will continue with regular testing.”
The tennis world now sees Zverev’s sentiments as meaningless.
“If you have the audacity to f***ing put out a tweet that you made your management write on your behalf saying you’re going to self-isolate for 14 days and apologising to the f***ing general public for putting their health at risk, at least have the audacity to stay inside for 14 days, my god,” Kyrgios said.
“Jesus man, pissing me off, this tennis world is pissing me off, seriously how selfish can you all get?”
Zverev escaped the Adria Tour without coronavirus, unlike Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov.Source: AFP
Even so, Zverev is not without his high-profile support.
Boris Becker came out of the woodwork this week and called Kyrgios a “rat” for his outspokenness on Zverev and other members of the Adria Tour, namely Djokovic.
In response, Kyrgios stood by calling out Zverev for his “idiotic” actions, and told Becker he was just “looking out for people”.
But that circus has somewhat taken the attention off Zverev himself who, unlike after the first instance, remains mute.
A Twitter poll conducted by Rothenberg with more than 6,500 votes found that 33.7 per cent of tennis fans believe Zverev needs to apologise.
Given the shallowness of his first display of contrition, 59.2 per cent of people say there’s no point attempting a second.
Nearly 24 hours later, no statement, no apology, no anything from Sascha Zverev (except for unfollowing a critical fan account on Insta) after being out partying when he said he would be in self-isolation following a colonnade of coronavirus contact at Adria Tour.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 29, 2020
That number is unsurprising given people are furious, feeling like they’ve been sold a lie by Zverev.
“To see that video … I found it really hard to watch. It made me so, so angry that video,” sports broadcaster Catherine Whitaker said on The Tennis Podcast.
“That was actually possibly my low point of this whole Adria Tour catastrophe really, because all I could think of when I watched that video was the sacrifices, and compromises and agonising decisions that people have made throughout the course of this pandemic, this crisis. Not just for their own sake but for the sake of others, for the sake of people they don’t even know, for the sake of the greater good.
“And this multi-millionaire can’t even stay inside in his presumedly extremely lovely home in Monte Carlo for two weeks. And he certainly can’t disobey the rules without wanting to get some credit for sticking to them by releasing the statement that he did.
“It made my blood boil. Honestly, I found it really hard to stomach.”
BBC commentator David Law was similarly bemused, adding: “He’s not a stupid man. I think he’s got a brain personally when I see him and hear him talk….
“But he has either got a complete blind spot or he just doesn’t care. Either one of those is not acceptable to me. It’s absolutely appalling that he would just think, ‘oh, forget it, I want to go to a party’.
“Whatever has caused him to do that … it’s pretty shameful.”
Either way, Zverev remains silent.
It’s almost as if he knows that whatever he does next could well define his reputation indefinitely — if it’s not too late already.