Men's tennis tour raises concerns over Peng Shuai but fails to match WTA measures

London, UK - The men's tennis tour ATP has expressed concern for Peng Shuai but stopped short of joining its women's equivalent WTA in suspending tournaments in China.

The ATP has stopped short of joining the WTA in cancelling its tennis tournaments in China.
The ATP has stopped short of joining the WTA in cancelling its tennis tournaments in China.  © IMAGO / Baering

WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon has taken a strong stance against the tour’s biggest market since former world doubles number one Peng made an allegation of sexual assault against a senior Chinese official on social media last month that was swiftly removed.

The WTA has been unable to gain proof that Peng is free of censorship and coercion, while Simon’s call for the 35-year-old’s claim to be fully investigated appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

Concerns for the welfare of Peng have prompted a rare show of unity in tennis, but so far that does not look set to extend to a sport-wide boycott of China.

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ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said: "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."

The International Tennis Federation, which runs events at the lower tiers of the sport, also made no mention of pulling out of the country in its statement, saying: "The International Tennis Federation, as the governing body of tennis, stands in support of all women’s rights."

"Our primary concern remains Peng Shuai’s well-being. The allegations Peng made must be addressed. We will continue to support all efforts being made to that end, both publicly and behind the scenes."

IOC walking a tightrope

Peng Shuai at the Australian Open in January 2020.
Peng Shuai at the Australian Open in January 2020.  © IMAGO / Kyodo News

Tournaments have not been played in China for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, and there are none scheduled for the first part of 2022, meaning the governing bodies can afford to take a wait-and-see approach for now.

There is more urgency for the International Olympic Committee with the Winter Olympics in Beijing only two months away and talk of a boycott growing.

The IOC revealed on Thursday that it had held a second video call with Peng, and it put out a much stronger statement than the one last month that was widely derided, while again stressing its belief in diplomacy.

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The organization said in a statement: "We share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai."

"This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January."

"We are using 'quiet diplomacy' which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organisations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters."

Novak Djokovic backed the suspension, saying: "I support fully WTA’s stance because we don’t have enough information about Peng Shuai and her well-being, and her health is of the utmost importance for the tennis community."

"We don’t have enough information, and I think it’s a very bold, very courageous stance from WTA."

Human rights charity Amnesty International also offered its support and urged the international community to keep up the pressure on China.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Baering

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