Hardly any German athlete is as contentious as tennis star Alexander Zverev. But why is he so unpopular and is it justified?
It almost seems as if there are two Alexander Zverevs (23) – at least in public perception. The likeable, down-to-earth hamburger with Russian roots and the arrogant, sophisticated tennis millionaire in the Monegasque world of glitter. Perhaps both are somehow right with the current number seven in the world, but unfortunately the negative impression has predominated in this ambivalent external perception since the party scandal in Monte Carlo.
Zverev did a disservice to his already torn image after being photographed at a party in his adopted home, although he previously claimed to be in Corona quarantine. The story of his dubious image is as old as his star shines in the tennis sky. The anger started as early as 2016, when Zverev surprisingly canceled both his Olympic and Davis Cup participation and aroused some emotions. One who knows the tennis circus like no other, but immediately jumped to his side.
Boris Becker jumped to his side
Back then, none other than Boris Becker (52) said: "It really isn't that Sascha doesn't have her heart in the right place or doesn't feel like a German." Nevertheless, the former world number one also spoke about Zverev as a "still very uncut diamond" that needs to be looked after. Around a year later a media feud about the tournament participation in Hamburg flared up. Zverev, then just 20 years old and still fresh on the tour, was already at a very high level and was considered an absolute young star and the upcoming number one.
But he did not want to play in a comparatively insignificant tournament in his home country because he was already preparing for the US Open on the hard court. Actually understandable, but the tournament director, tennis icon Michael Stich (51), gave the media that Zverev should have broken an agreement and publicly duped the emerging superstar.
Global player or boy from Hamburg?
At the latest since these actions – although they were completely understandable from a sporting point of view – Germany is no longer really warm with Zverev, who lives in the tax haven Monaco, mostly trained in Florida and also started again in Hamburg in 2019. The credit among the German fans seemed gambled before it even reached the account.
In the minds of most tennis fans, Zverev is a so-called global player, not like Boris Becker, the boy from Leimen, who, like Sascha – his nickname – lived in Monaco and trained mainly in the USA. Do you perhaps measure too much here with two different measures?
Even numerous nice interviews in which the professional shows himself from a sympathetic side cannot change the possibly wrong impression. In a "stern" interview, for example, he spoke positively about his home in Hamburg, where he felt most comfortable, and made it clear that he was soaking up everything that happened in Germany. However, he does not miss the lack of recognition of his person, tennis is no longer as important as it used to be. So maybe this tennis professional doesn't seem to be that sophisticated?
The dispute flared up after the Monaco party
At least now there is a bitter argument about him. Already after his acceptance of the extremely questionable Adriatic tournament in the middle of the corona pandemic, in which organizer Novak Djokovic (33), among others, was infected with Covid-19, a media storm was brewing through Zverev. But after he posted his apology via Twitter and showed himself refined, it was actually thought that the story was already forgotten. But after the party trip, the fire started again and is only now really picking up speed.
Numerous colleagues and ex-professionals spoke up and expressed their incomprehension, sometimes with a violent choice of words. The Australian tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios (25), who described Zverev as the brazen selfish, was sometimes the clearest. Zverev immediately jumped to the side again: Boris Becker, who immediately berated Kyrgios as a "rat". In the next few days and weeks, will Zverev make it out of the dark valley of negative reporting with his popular advocate, straight into the hearts of German fans? At least you should put a big question mark behind it …