Rafael Nadal calls for tougher punishments on players after Alexander Zverev case

Rafael Nadal has called for players to be hit with tougher punishments if they are found to have violated conduct rules after Alexander Zverev was handed a suspended eight-week ban for his on-court outburst in Mexico last month.

Zverev, the world number three, has been allowed to return the court and is set to play in the ATP Masters Series in Indian Wells this week, but any further incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct or verbal abuse will see the ban come into effect.

The German was thrown out of the Mexico Open last month after he attacked the chair of umpire Alessandro Germani with his racket at the end of a doubles match but the ATP’s ruling, which followed an investigation into the incident, was criticised.

Serena Williams said she would “probably be in jail” if she had attacked an umpire’s chair in the manner of Zverev while Mats Wilander suggest a three to six month ban would have been appropriate.

Speaking ahead of the tournament in Indian Wells, Nadal said that he was glad Zverev was hit with a lengthier punishment due to his relationship with the 23-year-old, but admitted stricter punishments were needed to “protect the sport”.

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“It’s so difficult to talk in my position because from one point of view, I have a good relationship with Sascha [Zverev],” Nadal said. “I like him and I practice with him very often. I wish him all the very best and he knows that he was wrong, honestly, and he recognised that very early. So that’s a positive thing in his side, in my opinion.

“On the other hand … if we’re not able to control and create a rule or a way to penalise this type of attitudes a little bit in a stronger way, then we as a players, we feel stronger and stronger all the time. We need to be a positive example, especially for the kids watching us.

“So from one side, I don’t want a penalisation for Sascha because I like him and I have very good relationship with him. In the other hand … I’d like to see something harder for this kind of attitudes, not only him, I mean in general terms because this protects the sport and protects the referees.”

Zverev has since called the incident the “worst moment of his life”. “It still is embarrassing for me now,” the Tokyo Olympics gold medal winner said.

“Walking around the locker room, it’s not a nice feeling. But we all do mistakes. I’m also a human being, and I can guarantee you I will never act this way again in my life. It was definitely the worst moment of my life.”

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