No sign ATP will suspend tournaments in China over Peng Shuai
London, Dec 2 (EFE).- The chairman of the Association of Tennis Professionals on Thursday reiterated his concerns about tennis player Peng Shuai, but he gave no indication that his organization will follow the lead of the Women’s Tennis Association and suspend tournaments in China.
The ATP, which has fewer events in the Asian country than the WTA but is partly funded by a Chinese company, released a new statement Thursday on Peng in the wake of the WTA’s announcement the day before.
“The situation involving Peng Shuai continues to raise serious concerns within and beyond our sport. The response to those concerns has so far fallen short. We again urge for a line of open direct communication between the player and the WTA in order to establish a clearer picture of her situation,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.
“We know that sport can have a positive influence on society and generally believe that having a global presence gives us the best chance of creating opportunity and making an impact,” the Italian added. “We will continue to consult with our members and monitor any developments as this issue evolves.”
The ATP’s cautious approach toward China was ridiculed by some in the tennis community, with American player Reilly Opelka sarcastically tweeting that the statement was “POWERFUL.”
He went on to say he “was particularly moved by the part where he said ‘we will monitor any developments as this issue evolves.'”
On Nov. 2, the 35-year-old Peng, a former doubles world No. 1, said in a 1,600-word post on her verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, that retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, now 75, had pressured her into having sex around three years ago.
The post was deleted about 30 minutes later and Peng’s whereabouts was unknown for several days, prompting expressions of concern from major tennis stars including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic.
Since then, she has only been seen in images disseminated by Chinese state media and from a Nov. 21 video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.
The IOC also said on Thursday that it held a second call with Peng on Wednesday, adding in a statement that “we share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai” and “will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.”
The IOC has come under harsh criticism amid the Peng matter because it is seen as bending over backwards to avoid upsetting China ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Amid concerns about Peng’s wellbeing, Chinese state-run English-language outlet CGTN on Nov. 17 published an e-mail on Twitter that it said the tennis player had written to WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon.
In that e-mail, she said the allegation of sexual assault “is not true” and that she is not missing but rather “resting at home and everything is fine.”
Simon responded that same day by saying he has a “hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the e-mail we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”
On Wednesday, the WTA said it is suspending its tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, unless Beijing heeds the tennis body’s call for a “full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.” EFE