Boris Becker has defended Alexander Zverev’s decision to play exhibition matches with Roger Federer during the Davis Cup Finals, saying it’s ‘his choice’ what he does in his off season.
Becker has been selected as Germany’s ATP Cup captain by Zverev but his country’s top-ranked player has decided to skip the season-ending Davis Cup Finals next week.
While Zverev has long said he wouldn’t play in Madrid – an understandable position in itself given the season’s length – eyebrows were raised when he signed up for an exhibition tour with Federer, and he will compete in both Chile and Mexico during the same week his countrymen will be fighting for the title at the Caja Magica.
While Federer’s Switzerland have not qualified for the 18-nation competition, Germany look a significantly weaker outfit in Zverev’s absence and it could be viewed as a kick in the teeth for him to be playing tennis on the other side of the planet rather than representing his country.
But Becker defended his decision to sign up for exhibition matches with Federer at the same time as the Davis Cup.
‘Look, he’s old enough to make his own decision,’ Becker said at a press conference starting a 50-day countdown to the ATP Cup. ‘He decided amongst a few other players when the decision was made to change the Davis Cup format and to have it in one week next year not to participate.
‘He’s done the decision already a while ago amongst many other players. We accept it.
‘On the other hand, he’s always played for Germany whenever I ask him. He played in the first round against Hungary in Frankfurt the beginning of the year, and he did his bit and he’s won his points. He was very excited to play at the ATP Cup, as well.
‘What he does in his off time, he’s his own man. We were all our own boss. What he chooses to do or not to do between the end of the ATP Finals and the beginning of 2020 is his choice.’
Zverev will not face an investigation, meanwhile, into his use of an electronic device at the O2 this week, the ATP has confirmed.
Clips of him using a device during his ATP Finals matches against Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas were broadcast but he has not been found to be in breach of the rules.
‘The ATP can confirm that there has been no breach of ATP rules concerning Alexander Zverev,’ a short statement from the governing body of men’s tennis read.
Zverev had denied using a mobile phone on court but prompted confusion when he suggested he had been pressing a water bottle during a 6-3 6-2 loss to Tsitsipas.
‘My phone was in the locker room. I always leave it there,’ said Zverev on Wednesday night. ‘I don’t know what they saw, but it was definitely not a phone.
‘I mean, a water bottle? Empty water bottle maybe?’
Players are not permitted to use electronic devices on court and can be fined up to $5,000 per incident. However, they can get devices approved by the tournament supervisor.
While player lists have been released for the ATP Cup, team captains will not be confirmed until Monday.
Tim Henman is expected to be confirmed as Great Britain’s captain, while Andy Murray, Dan Evans, Cam Norrie, Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury make up the five-man squad.
It’s a different five-man team than the one that has arrived in Madrid for the Davis Cup Finals – branded the ‘World Cup of Tennis’ – with Kyle Edmund selected ahead of Norrie by captain Leon Smith and Jamie Murray’s regular doubles partner Neal Skupski getting the nod ahead of ATP Finals participant Salisbury.
It may seem somewhat farcical to have two team competitions starting just six weeks apart – a point that was hammered home by having a preview press conference for the ATP Cup with the Davis Cup just four days away from starting.
Becker, however, was uninterested in discussing whether the two competitions would merge in future – something several players have expressed their wish would happen.
‘Look, you can also mention the Laver Cup in September. That’s also a team competition,’ he added.
‘The good news is there are strong interests in tennis. A lot of people want to participate. A lot of people want to organize. There is a lot of money at stake, a lot of points. That’s the good news.
‘Now, is that the perfect scenario? No. But I don’t want to talk about the politics in tennis. I think we are here today to speak about a new competition, a new venture, a new event, which is great.
‘I’m not responsible for the Davis Cup format, and I’m not responsible for the Laver Cup, either.’
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