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WTA, ATP issue statements supporting Peng Shuai sexual assault allegations
The former doubles No. 1 disappeared from social media after detailing a toxic relationship with an ex-Communist Party official, causing fans and fellow players to worry about her whereabouts.
Published Nov 15, 2021
WATCH: Tennis Channel Live discusses Peng Shuai and the WTA's response to her digital disappearance.
Led by chairman and CEO Steve Simon, the WTA issued a statement in the wake of Peng Shuai’s digital disappearance, one that came after the former doubles No. 1 detailed a toxic relationship with Zhang Gaoli, a retired Chinese politician who served as the country’s Vice Premier between 2013 and 2018.
“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern,” Simon wrote. “As an organization dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on—equality, opportunity and respect.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”
Peng initially posted allegations against Zhang on November 2 on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. The post and her account subsequently disappeared, leading fans, media, and fellow players to worry about her whereabouts, tweeting the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
“I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe?” asked Chris Evert on Twitter.
In a follow-up interview with the New York Times, Simon described receiving confirmation of Peng’s safety from the Chinese Tennis Association, but has yet to speak with her directly.
The WTA has built an extensive presence in China, hosting as many as 11 events through 2019, though none have taken place since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March. The Akron WTA Finals, currently unfolding in Guadalajara, Mexico, was originally scheduled to happen in Shenzhen.
A two-time major doubles champion, Peng, 35, reached the 2014 US Open semifinals in singles and was ranked as high as No. 15 in the discipline; she has also not played on tour since March 2020.
“If at the end of the day, we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what it came to,” Simon told the New York Times.
On Monday, the ATP issued a statement regarding Peng, from chairman Andrea Gaudenzi:
"There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our tennis community. We have been deeply concerned by the uncertainty surrounding the immediate safety and whereabouts of WTA player Peng Shuai. We are encouraged by the recent assurances received by WTA that she is safe and accounted for and will continue to monitor the situation closely. Separately, we stand in full support of WTA’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Peng Shuai."