Peng Shuai case: WTA suspends tournaments in China, whatever the cost

It is a strong message. WTA President Steve Simon announced Wednesday “the suspension of tournaments in China” because of the Peng Shuai affair, according to a statement from the body that manages the women’s tennis circuit. A decision that could have major economic consequences.

“I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to participate in tournaments when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has apparently been pressured to reverse his allegations. sexual abuse, ”wrote Steve Simon in a statement.

“In view of the current situation of the case, I am also very worried about the risks that all our players and our staff would take if we organize tournaments in China in 2022”, he adds. No WTA tournament was planned before the end of the year and the 2022 schedule has yet to be released.

Support from Djokovic

During the 2019 season, the last not to have been impacted by the Covid-19, 10 tournaments were organized in China, including the end-of-year women’s Masters which, with $ 14 million, had been better endowed financially. than their male counterpart. “The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players. Along with us, I hope the leaders of the world will continue to stand up for justice for Peng, and all women, regardless of the financial consequences. ”

Many stars of world tennis, from Chris Evert to Novak Djokovic and several Western countries, notably France and the United States but also the European Union and the UN, have asked Beijing to shed light on Peng’s fate. Shuai. “I fully support the WTA because we do not have enough information on Peng Shuai,” said the Serbian player.

“Influenced responses”

Peng Shuai, 35, disappeared days in November after accusing a former Chinese Communist leader of sexual abuse. The young woman reappeared on November 21 at a restaurant in Beijing and during a tennis tournament in Beijing. the Chinese capital, according to videos published by official media.

She also had a videoconference dialogue with the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach. According to the IOC, Peng Shuai explained that she was “safe and sound at her home in Beijing but that she would like her privacy to be respected.” Chinese Olympic Committee member Li Lingwei participated in the video conference with Thomas Bach. The WTA announced last Saturday to AFP that Steve Simon had sent two emails to the player but that it “was clear that his answers were influenced by others”, adding that he remained “deeply concerned” about her. situation.