Tennis Prose



ITF Won’t Be Drawn On Peng Situation

Peng Shuai.

The tennis world has of course recently been rocked by the apparent disappearance of one-time Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion Peng Shuai, with the story having more twists and turns than a five-set Grand Slam final.

Peng, who in February 2014 became the first ever Chinese player, male or female, to reach number one in either singles or doubles, first raised cause for concern on November 2 when she claimed on her Weibo social media account that a member of the China’s top decision-making body forced her into having sexual relations despite repeated refusals following a tennis game three years ago.

The post was swiftly removed half an hour after it appeared, when she also said that she could provide any evidence to support her allegations. China’s internet is heavily censored and the private lives of top leaders are an especially sensitive subject.

As people sought to discuss and share the news, censors blocked keywords like “tennis”, disabled comments on Peng’s account, and removed references to her from China’s internet. However as the 35-year old is one of the country’s most recognizable stars the story has become a hot talking point around the world.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) were quick to make their stance known. Chief executive Steve Simon demanded a full investigation into Peng’s allegations and added that he had received “assurances” from the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA) that Peng was “safe and not under any physical threat” but could not confirm this directly with Peng.

Across several statements and interviews, Simon made it clear that the WTA expected action on Peng’s claims, and they would withhold tournament and funding rights from China until they had the necessary confirmation they required.

Peng at 2005 US Open with Scoop Malinowski.

Simon said allegations that one of their players had been sexually assaulted was an area where there could be no compromise. “We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon told CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored.”

As demands for answers escalated, other stars of tennis including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Kim Cljisters, Martina Navratilova, and Stan Wawrinka all joined the campaign. Even Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué – the founder and president of the investment group which co-runs the Davis Cup – posted to his 20.1 million followers.

Tennis great Chris Evert was also among the many to express their concerns for Peng, tweeting: “Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated.”

Chissie Evert.

French player Nicholas Mahut tweeted: “The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA’s problem. We are all concerned,” and British star Liam Broady wrote: “I can’t believe that this is even happening in the 21st century.”

This prompted China’s state-run media to release a statement claiming Peng had emailed Simon to say “everything is fine” by tweeting a screenshot of a block of text which it said was the email. It said: “the news including the allegation of sexual assault is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me.”

However Simon and the WTA dismissed the suggestion the email came from Peng, and said it only increased his concern: “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”

A video was also released of the star enjoying a meal with her team, but the WTA along with players and fans are far from convinced. Simon has tried to contact Peng on multiple occasions directly and has been widely praised for his approach to the situation.

The WTA have now taken the decision to suspend tournaments in China but the sport’s overall governing body, the International Tennis Federation, has refused to bow to pressure to follow their lead.

The ITF has announced that it is not looking to ban events in the country because it does “not want to punish a billion people”. Its president David Haggerty explained in further detail: “as the governing body of tennis, we stand in support of all women’s rights,” he said. “The allegations need to be looked into, and we will continue to work behind the scenes and directly to bring this to resolution.

“But you have to remember that the ITF is the governing body of the sport worldwide, and one of the things that we are responsible for is grassroots development. We don’t want to punish a billion people, so we will continue to run our junior events in the country and our senior events that are there for the time being.”

“We will continue those efforts in conjunction with the Chinese Tennis Association.”

The news that the ITF is still keeping senior events in the country in place will be welcomed by tennis fans in the region. And China will be competing in next year’s 2022 Davis Cup, the flagship ITF men’s competition.

They are strong favourites in the odds to defeat Ireland in their World Group II play-off round, scheduled for March 4-5, but are a huge outside rank in the outright tournament betting.

Instead, it’s safe to predict that tennis fans will be using the best sportsbooks to back the heavyweights such as the defending champions of Russia, runners-up Croatia and a strong Novak Djokovic-inspired Serbia who will be amongst the short odds favourites. Meanwhile, Canada and the United States are making steady progress to be in the running and Italy look a solid outside bet to do well.

Novak Djokovic.

This makes up for the proposed withdrawal of the season-ending WTA Finals event which was due to be staged in Shenzhen for eight consecutive years between 2022-2030.

It remains to be seen whether Peng will be competing in any competitions next year. She became the World No.1 doubles player in 2014, the first Chinese player to achieve a top ranking, and has won 23 tour-level doubles titles, including at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.  The 35-year-old was also a semi-finalist in singles at the US Open in 2014. If she does make her return to the courts, she will have some way to go to reach those heights of previous years in order to be high up in the betting ranks.

by Nathan Auty

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  • Scoop Malinowski · December 21, 2021 at 12:59 pm

  • George · December 21, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    This is my understanding:

    First, Peng never said that she was sexually assaulted. Lookup her translated note. It reads more like a love letter than anything else.

    Then MSM either by way of anti-China sentiment, or by half-assed mis-translation, made it into #metoo situation and the coverage all got screwed up. Everybody was playing politics and e.g. WTA was expected to react and did, ITF is supposed to “do something about it”, etc.

    Now, this is not to say she is safe, we simply don’t know. You don’t air your private affair with a high party official in China, this is not done. I don’t think she is in any immediate danger, she has too high profile to be “disappeared”. From what I know, western officials have met with her and confirmed that she is OK.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 21, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    George, exactly – the agenda driven, politically militant fake news media got way overexcited by the outbreak of the Peng story and jumped all over itself trying to spin a fictional political narrative that suited it’s agendas and tendency for sensationalism. The media created a crazy hoax event of a Chinese player being raped by a high level CCP male chauvinist pig. But then after all the layers of fake news added to the story were eventually stripped, one realized the truth had been victimized. The truth of the original weibo post was Peng said she was in love with this old communist and she felt very compatible with him, she was impressed by his great wealth and power but she was spooked by the fact his wife was always a room away from their relations. Now in the last 24 hours Peng was interviewed on video saying she was never sexually assaulted. She looks fine, great, smiling, safe and healthy. And now the world’s fake news media again shows itself to be utterly not trustworthy… a giant biased fraud propaganda mind control operation with the intent to form public opinion by controlling the news.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 21, 2021 at 7:39 pm

  • Bill McGill · December 21, 2021 at 8:39 pm

    I agree with this. At most, her post can be read to imply a…well…icky case of an older, influential person cajoling someone into a sexual relationship, but the rest of the post pretty clearly indicates that it became a longstanding mutual relationship. There is no allegation of him forcing himself on her physically or threatening her financially. I acknowledge that people that know her may read more into the post than a stranger would, but I’m a little disturbed by the way the Western press is reporting this story, without even bothering to link to a translation of the post itself.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 21, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    Bill, there was an extreme rush to judgement to victimize the poor woman and portray the male as a sexual predator rapist. Facts didn’t matter, not with the agenda that has to be pushed. Now the media has lost even more respect, trust and credibility. The world would be a better place if the media was destroyed and replaced by more honorable, honest, dependable people without militant wacko politics to push.



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