ACAPULCO, MEXICO (AFP) - German Olympic tennis singles champion Alexander Zverev's expulsion from the Acapulco Open for his foul-mouthed tantrum was deserved said Spanish legend Rafael Nadal.
Nadal - playing his first tournament since he became the record holder for Grand Slam singles titles with 21 when he won the Australian Open last month - added it was not the "Sascha" (Zverev) he knew and with whom he has good relations.
World No. 3 Zverev smashed his racket several times against the umpire Alessandro Germani's chair and delivered a foul-mouthed rant at the official after he and partner Marcelo Melo had lost Tuesday's (Feb 22) doubles match.
The 24-year-old - the defending champion - was subsequently disqualified, with additional punishment likely to follow, and issued an apology saying his tirade of abuse at Germani was "unacceptable".
"I enjoy good relations with Alexander but, at the end of the day, the punishment is deserved," said Nadal at a press conference after beating American Stefan Kozlov 6-0, 6-3 in the second round of the Acapulco Open.
"One cannot behave in this manner and I believe he is conscious of that."
Nadal said Zverev's behaviour served as a bad example to the youngsters who saw tennis stars as role models.
"Unfortunately, the image that Alexander gave yesterday, exacerbated by being posted on social media accounts which lights the touchpaper, will have been seen by millions of children," said Nadal.
"They base their attitude on ours and we must set an example and show a minimum of respect."
Nadal - seeking his 91st career ATP title and fourth Acapulco crown - said every player endures frustrating moments.
"I understand the frustration, I understand that in a moment of anger one can break a racket," he said.
"I am not going to criticise him more than to say it displeases me because I was not brought up like that."
Nadal's assessment of Zverev's behaviour mirrored that of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Britain's three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, who are competing at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Djokovic - who was disqualified from the 2020 US Open for inadvertently hitting a line judge with a ball - said he could not "justify" Zverev's actions.
"He said it all in that statement. He realises that it was a mistake. I understand the frustration. Sometimes on the court you feel in the heat of the battle lots of different emotions," said the Serbian.
"I made mistakes in the past where I've had tantrums on the court. I understand what the player is going through. But, of course, I do not justify his actions. He has, with the words that he had in the statement, handled it in a right way."
Murray, speaking after being knocked out of the Dubai tournament following his 7-5, 6-2 defeat by Jannik Sinner, termed Zverev's tantrum as "dangerous" and reckless".