Rafael Nadal of Spain fields questions from the media during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 10, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (AFP)

Rafael Nadal called for tougher sanctions against players who abuse tennis officials on Thursday in the wake of the controversial suspended sentence handed down to Alexander Zverev.

Spanish star Nadal said that as a friend and practice partner of Zverev, he had no desire to see the German Olympic champion receive a stiffer sentence for his violent outburst at last month’s Mexico Open in Acapulco.

But the 21-time Grand Slam champion said that as a fan of the sport, tougher sanctions were needed.

Zverev was disqualified from the tournament for repeatedly smashing his racket into the umpire’s chair before verbally abusing the official.

On Monday the 24-year-old was given a suspended eight-week ban and $25,000 fine for the incident — penalties decried as too lenient by some.

Speaking ahead of the ATP/WTA Indian Wells Masters tournament in California on Thursday, Nadal said more stringent punishments should be levied in future.

“It’s so difficult to talk in my position because from from one point of view, I have a good relationship with Sascha (Zverev)– I like him and I practice with him very often,” Nadal said.

“I wish him all the very best and he knows that he was wrong, honestly, and he recognized 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 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 penalization 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.”

Nadal meanwhile is relishing the opportunity of another campaign in the Californian desert, where he has won three times in the past.

The Spaniard has enjoyed a blistering start to 2022, going unbeaten at 15-0 as well as snaffling his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

“It was an unexpected moment for me to be in this position,” Nadal said.

“I’m enjoying it every day and trying to stay with the right attitude to enjoy the fact that I’m playing well and enjoying matches and winning titles.

“I have been able to find a way to adapt my game to what I need to be competitive – some days being more aggressive, some days being more tactical, more defensive.

“Then I have been brave enough to play with the right determination in the moments that I needed.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2022/03/11/nadal-calls-for-tougher-punishment-after-zverev-case/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nadal-calls-for-tougher-punishment-after-zverev-case)