ATP ‘deeply concerned’ as WTA admit no ‘direct’ communication with Peng Shuai

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The ATP has released a statement concerning ‘missing’ Wimbledon champion Peng Shuai. The former doubles world No 1 accused China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault, and had not been heard from since. Although the WTA chairman said he heard from sources that the Chinese tennis star was “fine and doing okay”, he admitted nobody tried to contact Peng had been able to reach her directly.

On November 2, Peng took to Weibo – the Chinese Facebook equivalent – to accuse Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a lengthy post, also describing an on-and-off consensual relationship with the 75-year-old.

She also detailed having an on-and-off consensual relationship with the retired politician who is 40 years her senior, dating back to 2011, but the post was removed by Weibo within minutes, while searches of her name and even the word ‘tennis’ were subsequently blocked.

Her account is believed to be the first made against a high-ranking member of China’s Communist Party, as Zhang served on the party’s Politburo Standing Committee – China’s top ruling council – between 2012 and 2017.

Zhang has not responded to the claims.

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A week after accusing the former vice premier of sexual assault, it was reported that the two-time doubles Grand Slam champion had ‘vanished’ as no one had seen her or heard from her.

On Sunday (November 14), WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon released a statement saying the women’s tour was seeking a “full, fair and transparent investigation into sexual assault allegations against former Chinese leader and also calls for end of censorship against Peng Shuai.”

After reports that Peng was missing, Simon clarified in a New York Times interview that sources told him she was “fine”, though nobody from the WTA that had reached out to Peng was able to reach her “directly”.

‘We’ve had all of our contacts and all of our team on the tour that has had contact and relationships with her through the years reaching out,” he said.

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“We’ve also reached out to all our WTA athletes from the region that we feel would have relationships with her. And we’ve heard the same from everybody: that they haven’t been able to reach her directly.

“All the sources are that she’s fine and doing okay, and isn’t under any threat, but we have not been able to speak with her directly to this date. And I’m not aware of anybody that has at this point and time.”

Now, ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has issued a statement regarding Peng Shuai, saying: “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.”

In the 35-year-old’s Weibo post, she said the former vice premier had first coerced her after she visited his home to play tennis, writing: “That afternoon I didn’t give my consent and couldn’t stop crying. You brought me to your house and forced me and you to have relations.”

Zhang reportedly cut all ties with her when he had been promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee the following year.

After he retired from politics in 2018, Peng said Zhang invited her for dinner with his wife, after which she alleges he pressured her into sex.

Peng concluded her post: “I know that for someone of your stature, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you have said you are not afraid. But even as an egg hurled at a rock, a moth to a flame for self-destruction, I will speak the truth about you.”
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