ANDY MURRAY will tonight face the most controversial player on the ATP Tour.
The Scot will test his powers of recovery and fitness when he takes on the Alexander Zverev in the last 32 of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
But there will be little love lost between the pair when they step on to court.
Murray – who beat teenager Carlos Alcarez in the previous round – said: “I wouldn’t say we’re best friends.
“I mean, we don’t really chat a whole lot.”
Murray leads the head-to-head 2-0, including a gritty win at the Cincinnati Masters 1000 – played in New York – last year.
Zverev is desperate to get the win in the Californian desert tonight and complete the ‘Big Four’ scalps with wins against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic already under his belt.
The 6ft 6ins German said: “I’m looking forward to playing him.
“He’s the only one out of the big four I haven’t beaten yet.
“I hope I can change that after tomorrow.”
Zverev has been one of the most consistent stars on the circuit since the Covid pandemic began yet off the court he has generated negative headlines about his alleged behaviour.
The world No4 is being investigated by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body of men’s tennis, following claims he attacked his ex-girlfriend at the 2019 ATP Masters 1000 event in Shanghai.
In an interview with Slate online magazine in August, ex-partner Olga Sharypova claimed Zverev physically and emotionally abused her during the tournament in China.
Sharypova has also accused Zverev, 24, of covering her face with a pillow until she could no longer breathe and punching her in the face in separate incidents in New York and Geneva.
Zverev, winner of Olympic gold in Tokyo in August, denies all the allegations.
The ATP says it ‘fully condemns any form of violence or abuse’ and they ‘will investigate such allegations related to conduct at an ATP member tournament’.
Yet the ATP had been previously criticised for its general handling of the Zverev case and until recently not having a domestic abuse policy in its rulebook.
Though the claims are the talk of the locker room – as was seen in an unguarded moment on camera involving John McEnroe at the Laver Cup in Boston – few are willing to address the issue publicly.
Murray is one who has been asked about it and last month the 34-year-old said the way it had been handled wasn’t good for anyone involved.
Speaking during the San Diego Open, Murray said: “I don’t think it’s been great for the Tour.
“I don’t think it’s been great for Zverev, because you know, unless it gets addressed head-on, it’s just going to be lingering, and, like you say, the questions will continue to be getting asked.
“I spoke about it at Wimbledon, and now here, what is it, three months later, and I’m still getting asked about it.
“Obviously, it’s not been properly addressed, and until that happens, then players are going to continue to get asked about it.”
Zverev himself has welcomed the internal probe as a chance to prove his innocence, saying: “Bloody finally, to be honest. I’ve been asking them myself for months now.
“I’ve been asking them to do that since London last year, because it’s very hard for me, as you guys know, to clear my name, and only with something like this I can completely.
“Because I have been in court in Germany, which I won the case against the author and the publications which the author is ignoring right now – which I think will have a lot of consequences for him.
“But I asked myself for a very long time for this to happen. I know the media has turned and twisting it as if it is a bad thing for me.
“I am actually quite happy about it. Because after hopefully this is done, this subject will be done.
“Because other than that it’s been around for a year, and there’s not much more I can do to clear my name and I hope this will finally do it.”