Zverev and Kyrgios pull out of Berlin exhibition tournament

Alexander Zverev was to be the headliner at the Bett1 Aces tournament in Berlin from 13-15 July but has pulled out without explanation.

Nick Kyrgios has also withdrawn from the tournament, as has France’s Caroline Garcia.

The Bett1 Aces tournament will be played at the Steffi Graf Stadium and at the Airport Templehof from 13-19 July. Other players currently listed on the website include retired Tommy Haas, Julia Goerges and Jannik Sinner.

Zverev has come under fire recently for breaching self-isolation guidelines. The 23-year-old was part of the Adria Tour, the exhibition series organised by Novak Djokovic which was cancelled after a slew of positive tests among players and support staff, and issued a statement on Instagram apologising ‘deeply’ to ‘anyone I have potentially put at risk’ and promising to isolate himself – only for footage of him partying in a very crowded club to emerge six days later.

The German player has yet to address that footage or issue another apology, but wrote on Instagram today that he would not be playing the Bett1 Aces event, writing:

‘I have made the decision to stay put and train with my team and not play any organised events at the moment. It’s never nice to miss the chance to play at home, but I will be back soon.’

The announcement followed comments by the tournament director Edwin Weindorfer that he might rescind Zverev’s invitation to participate in the Bett1 Aces, or require him to follow a strict code of conduct while playing in Berlin.

Zverev also confirmed that he has taken a third test for COVID-19 which returned a negative result, and confirmed the news that he was undergoing a trial period working with David Ferrer.

It was reported on Monday that Ferrer, the former world no. 2 and French Open finalist who retired in May 2019, had travelled to Monte Carlo for a two-week trial with Zverev, whose former coaches include Grand Slam champions Juan Carlos Ferrero and Ivan Lendl.

Zverev confirmed that he and Ferrer are undergoing a ‘trial period’, writing:

‘Could not be more excited to get to work. Can’t wait for the tour to be back.’

Kyrgios’s withdrawal from the Bett1 Aces event, meanwhile, was attributed to Australian travel restrictions. The Australian has certainly been vocal in his criticisms of other players who have travelled and participated in exhibitions and specifically called Zverev’s behaviour ‘idiotic’.

Caroline Garcia has pulled out of the tournament due to a foot injury.

Former French Open finalist David Ferrer now coaching Alexander Zverev on a trial basis.

Zverev and Ferrer are currently in the early stages of a two-week trial to test out the possibility of a more permanent arrangement.

Marca.com reports that Ferrer has travelled to Monte Carlo, where Zverev lives, to work with the German player. If things go well, Ferrer could join Zverev’s coaching team for the European clay-court season, with the Madrid Masters, Rome Masters and French Open all due to take place in a four-week period from mid-September.

It’s not clear whether Ferrer, who has a two-year-old son, would travel to the USA for the upcoming US Open even if the coaching trial goes well.

David Ferrer retired in May 2019 (Photo by pressinphoto/Sipa USA)

Ferrer was ranked as high as world no. 2 and reached the final of the French Open in 2013. He retired in May 2019 after persistent injury problems. Ironically enough, it was Zverev who beat the Spaniard in his final match, at the Madrid Masters.

The announcement comes with Zverev under fire for apparently breaching COVID-19 safety protocols. The 23-year-old German was one of the players who took part in Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour, which was cancelled after players began testing positive for coronavirus. Zverev was not among them, but declared that he and his team would be self-isolating for the recommended 14 days – only for video of him partying in a crowded club six days later to emerge on social media.

He was heavily criticised, with Nick Kyrgios among those calling his behaviour ‘idiotic’ and ‘selfish’, while the director of the Berlin tournament Zverev is due to play from 13-19 July said he might rescind Zverev’s invitation or require him to follow a strict code of conduct while in Berlin.

Ferrer was known as one of the most hard-working, humble and professional players on the ATP Tour, so bringing him on board at this point could be a strategic move to divert attention from criticism of Zverev, who has been slated for a perceived lack of professionalism in the past as well as for his ill-advised behaviour during the COVID-19 crisis.

This is not the first time that Zverev has shown himself willing to add a big name to his coaching team – but his previous partnerships haven’t worked out well.

Zverev with Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem during the Adria Tour – Dimitrov would be the first to test positive for coronavirus (PA Images)

Zverev worked with Juan Carlos Ferrero, the former world no. 1 and French Open champion who, like Ferrer, hails from Spain. The partnership began in July 2017 and lasted eight months before the pair split after the 2018 Australian Open, with Zverev claiming that Ferrero had been ‘disrespectful’ to his team while Ferrero heavily implied that Zverev’s lack of professionalism was to blame, saying that they had ‘different ideas about how to be a professional off the court’. Zverev’s habit of arriving 20-30 minutes late to a practice session was one of the issues cited by Ferrero.

Ivan Lendl, who won eight Grand Slams during his time as a player and went on to have a highly fruitful coaching partnership with Andy Murray, began working with Zverev later in 2018. The year ended with Zverev’s biggest title to date, scoring back-to-back victories over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to win the season-ending ATP Finals in London. But the 2019 season was a torrid one for Zverev, who struggled on the court while being mired in a legal dispute with his former agent off the court, and Lendl announced the end of their relationship in July.

Lendl noted that Zverev ‘was still very young’, adding: ‘[C]urrently he has some off-court issues that make it difficult to work in a way that is consistent with my philosophy.’

Zverev shot back that he felt like he wanted more of Lendl’s attention on the tennis court and less on the golf course.

Regardless of his off-court difficulties, Zverev is still considered to be one of the leading lights of the younger generation in men’s tennis, although Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem have all overtaken him in the rankings.