Fri, 19 Nov, 2021

Tennis world reacts to disappearance of Chinese player

Tennis world reacts to disappearance of Chinese player

Serena Williams has added her voice to the chorus of tennis stars concerned for the wellbeing of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has been unreachable since accusing a powerful Chinese politician of assault.

Two weeks ago, Shuai took to Weibo to accuse former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her into sex during their long-term relationship. The post was quickly deleted, and her social media profiles have been silent since. A bizarre email claiming to be from the star did little to quell fears, with many feeling it wasn’t actually from Shuai.

The email reads, “Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai. Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without my consent.

“I’m not missing, nor am I ­unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you for caring about me. I hope to promote Chinese tennis with you all if I have the chance in the future. I hope Chinese tennis will become better and better.”

Soon after, Tennis superstar Serena Williams posted her concerns about Shuai on Twitter. She wrote, “I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai”. The tweet was accompanied by a photo of the star with the hashtag #whereispengshuai over the top.

Others have shared the image, including the Women’s Tennis Association, coach Patrick Mouratoglou and stars including Benoit Paire, Julia Goerges and Maria Sakkari.

On Friday, the International Tennis Writers’ Association released a statement in support of Peng.

“Peng Shuai’s allegations are very serious, and she is very brave to have made them.

“We fully support the efforts of the WTA and other tennis bodies in calling for meaningful assurances that Peng Shuai is safe, and for the allegations she has made to be properly investigated, without censorship.

“In the meantime, we wish Peng Shuai and her family and friends all the strength they need to get through this very stressful time.”

Naomi Osaka posted a brief statement on Twitter, where she said she was in “shock” at the current situation. “Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK. I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way.”

Novak Djokovic spoke to the press about Shuai’s disappearance following his ATP Tour Finals match against Casper Rudd, describing the situation as “terrible”.

“Honestly it’s shocking that she’s missing. More so that it’s someone that I’ve seen on the tour in previous years quite a few times.

“There’s not much more to say than to hope that she’s OK and it’s just terrible … I can imagine how her family feels, you know, that she’s missing.”

Image: Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

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