Alexander Zverev domestic abuse charges: What to know

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Editor's note: This has been updated from a version that originally ran on Jan 25, 2024.

PARIS -- Alexander Zverev reached the French Open final on Friday with a four-set win over Casper Ruud, and will take on Carlos Alcaraz for the title on Sunday. But the 27-year-old, who has been the focus of domestic abuse allegations in his native country, made headlines earlier in the day as it was announced he had agreed to a settlement in the case.

Here's what to know about the case and Friday's settlement:

What were the allegations against Zverev?

According to a court document from October, Zverev was accused of "physically abusing and damaging the health of a woman during an argument in Berlin in May 2020." The woman is his former partner, Brenda Patea, who is also the mother of his daughter. (ESPN doesn't normally name alleged victims of domestic abuse, but Patea went public with her accusations.) In an interview, Patea said Zverev pushed her into a wall and choked her.

On Oct. 2, 2023, a criminal court issued a fine of €450,000 (about $488,000) and a penalty order against Zverev. In German law, such an order can be used when there is compelling evidence to support the accusation and a trial is not deemed necessary. Defendants have the right to contest the order, which then results in a public trial. Zverev contested the order and legally maintained the presumption of innocence until he stood trial.

On Nov. 1, Zverev called the penalty order "complete bulls---" when speaking to the media at the Paris Masters event. "Anybody that has a semi-standard IQ level knows what this is all about," Zverev said without further explanation.

Have there been any previous allegations against Zverev?

Yes. Olya Sharypova, another previous partner of Zverev's and a former tennis player, publicly came forward on Instagram in October 2020 with allegations of abuse at various places around the world, including in cities where ATP tournaments were being held.

In a series of media interviews soon after, Sharypova described multiple instances of violence, including Zverev allegedly punching her in the face, as well as smothering her with a pillow as she struggled to breathe. She said she feared for her life.

Zverev denied the accusations. Sharypova did not go the police, but the ATP hired an outside firm to look into her claims. After a 15-month investigation, which included interviews with Sharypova, Zverev and 24 others, the ATP announced on Jan. 31, 2023, that it would not be punishing Zverev as there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations. The ATP did not publish a full report of its findings.

"From the beginning, I have maintained my innocence and denied the baseless allegations made against me," Zverev said in a statement released later that day. "I welcomed and fully cooperated with the ATP's investigation and am grateful for the organization's time and attention in this matter."

What happened during the opening days of Zverev's trial?

According to The Guardian, the prosecutor detailed the allegations to the court. Per the prosecutor, Zverev allegedly pushed Patea against a wall and strangled her with both hands following a "heated argument" at an apartment in Berlin in May of 2020. Patea then had difficulty breathing and swallowing for several days after. Patea did not speak to the court, but was in attendance.

Zverev's lawyer Alfred Dierlamm called the accusations "unfounded and contradictory" and said his team would share evidence from witnesses and chat messages that would give "an objective view of the events." The defense also requested the remainder of the trial to be held behind closed doors to protect Zverev's privacy, as well as that of their young daughter. The case was then adjourned for the day.

On Monday, the request was granted and Patea's testimony was not heard by the public.

What does the settlement look like?

The settlement was agreed upon by Zverev, Patea and the prosecutor's office. It includes a monetary condition of €200,000 ($217,820), with €150,000 going to the state treasury and the remainder going to non-profit organizations.

"The decision is not a verdict and it is not a decision about guilt or innocence," the court told the BBC.

In a statement, Zverev's legal team said he agreed to it "in order to shorten the process especially in the interest of the child they have together."

Had Zverev said anything about the trial while in Paris?

Prior to the start of the tournament, Zverev told reporters during his media day news conference that he wouldn't be attending the trial, nor would it affect his play.

"At the end of the day, I do believe in the German system," Zverev said. " I do believe in the truth, as well. I have to be certain that, you know, I do know what I did, I do know what I didn't do.

"That's, at the end of the day, what's going to come out, and I have to trust in that. You know, everything else is out of my hands. Not out of my hands, but I do believe that I'm not going to lose this procedure [sic]. There's absolutely no chance I am.

"That's why I can play calmly, and I think my results have been showing it. Winning [the title in] Rome [earlier in May] I think is a big title, as well, and obviously being here. And if it would be on my mind I wouldn't be playing the way I am."

Zverev refused to answer a question about the trial following his second-round victory last week.

"I have said everything before the tournament," he said.

Does the ATP have a domestic abuse policy?

No. While other leagues, such as the NBA and NFL, have specific policies related to domestic abuse and violence, the ATP does not.

In October 2021, while announcing it would be investigating the initial claims against Zverev, the ATP said it had commissioned and received an independent safeguarding report.

"ATP will now evaluate the recommendations to identify immediate next steps and develop a longer-term safeguarding strategy relating to all matters of abuse, including domestic violence," the organization said in a statement.

In March 2023, the ATP hired Andrew Azzopardi as its director of safeguarding. A specific policy has yet to be released. The ATP does have a more general code of conduct policy, which outlines potential punishments for "conduct contrary to the integrity of the game," including for those charged with a crime.

"A player, or related person, charged with a violation of a criminal or civil law of any jurisdiction may be deemed by virtue of such charge to have engaged in conduct contrary to the integrity of the Game of Tennis and the ATP Members Fines Committee may provisionally suspend such player, or related person, from further participation in ATP tournaments pending a final determination of the criminal or civil proceeding," the 2024 ATP rulebook states.

When asked in January for clarity regarding Zverev and the code of conduct, the ATP issued a statement to ESPN.

"We are aware of the upcoming legal trial involving Alexander Zverev, and will not be commenting until that process is complete."

The ATP has yet to comment following the news of Friday's settlement.

Zverev was named as a member of the ATP Player Advisory Council earlier this year. After his first-round win at the Australian Open, the questions during the English-speaking portion of his news conference were entirely about his position on the Council. Because he had been voted into the leadership position -- which makes recommendations to the ATP on behalf of the players -- by his peers, he said members of the media were the only ones who believed his role to be inappropriate.

"Journalists are saying that, some, who are actually interested more in this story to write about and more about the clicks than the actual truth," Zverev said.

Zverev was also featured extensively in an episode of the current season of Netflix's "Break Point," which was released Jan. 10. The allegations were not mentioned.

Had any of his peers spoken about the charges, the trial or his role on the ATP's Player Advisory Council?

While several players were asked questions in the days following the announcement of the trial date during their news conferences at the Australian Open, most said they were unable to comment. Alex de Minaur said he was "good at playing tennis" but "not good at making political decisions" and was "going to stay out of it and focus on playing tennis." Stefanos Tsitsipas said he was "completely unfamiliar" with the situation.

"I haven't had too much time to think about it, and don't really have an opinion right now," Casper Ruud said. "But yeah, I'm not exactly sure how to react to it, so won't give you a good answer. Sorry."

Grigor Dimitrov, who is also a member of the Council, initially said he didn't want to comment because he was unaware of the situation, before acknowledging Zverev's recent election to the position.

"I think everyone needs to sit down together and discuss all of that," Dimitrov said. "That's my message on that end. Of course now these things coming through, personally, I didn't know. So I'm sure if you ask all the other guys, it's something that if it's needed, I guess we are all going to sit down and talk about it."

Sloane Stephens, who recently concluded a stint on the WTA's Players' Council, said the WTA players would not have elected someone facing such charges.

"I think that the ATP kind of beats their own drum," Stephens said. "Yeah, they do what they do on that side. Would that happen on the WTA Tour? Probably not."

Stephens acknowledged Zverev's presence on tour was a "difficult situation" and said she hoped the trial would "put it to rest."

"There's a lot of speculation and allegations," Stephens said. "I think at this point for the tour and for the fans it needs to be done with. I think that's what will happen. People will get what they want whenever his trial is. We'll just go from there. I guess the ATP will then decide what they will do with their player after that. ...

"For three years no one has done anything, so I don't think another five months of waiting for a criminal trial I guess to happen is going to change much on either side."

Iga Swiatek, the current top-ranked women on tour, said she wasn't "in the right position to judge" but did say she was disappointed that Zverev had been voted onto the Council.

"For sure it's not good when a player who's facing charges like that is kind of being promoted," Swiatek said.

Since then, few players have spoken about the trial or the allegations.

In an interview with "Clay" in March, Yannick Hanfmann -- who has been teammates with Zverev on Germany's Davis Cup team -- said he would respect the outcome of the trial, whatever it was.

"I know what he's accused of, but I don't know if he's guilty or not," Hanfmann said. "So let's hopefully make [the court] figure it out. And then if he's innocent, we don't have to talk about it anymore and we move on. If he's guilty, we'll probably have to remove him from the Council. And the ATP will have to do something."

Last week, following a doubles match at the French Open, Andy Murray said it should be the ATP -- not the players -- who should answer questions about Zverev being allowed to play while his trial was ongoing.

"It's the ATP who should make the decision and make the policy for what that would look like," Murray told reporters. "I don't think [the ATP] did a particularly good job over the last few years with, I don't know what the word is in terms of, you know, in these situations when you might ask me about that in press, like, it's not for us to come up with what those policies are. It's for the governing body to make that decision."

What happens now?

Due to the settlement, the allegations will not be on Zverev's record going forward and he is presumed innocent. As a result, no punishment is expected from the ATP. Per the Associated Press, Zverev and Patea will have joint custody of their child.