The women’s tennis Association (WTA) has been faced with the prospect of having a total of six tournaments postponed from their schedule in China due to “an unknown political situation”, according to an announcement released on September 27. The WTA, which is organizing its first tournament for Shanghai this November, said that it will attempt to play the event as soon as possible but did not clarify when exactly they’ll be back at full capacity.
Peng Shuai is a Chinese tennis player. She announced the suspension of tournaments in China on Twitter.
Peng Shuai did not appear in public for three weeks after making sexual assault claims.
The Women’s Tennis Association has declared that all competitions in China would be suspended immediately due to concerns about Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.
After accusing a prominent Chinese official of sexual assault, Peng, 35, vanished from public view for three weeks.
Steve Simon, the WTA’s president, expressed “severe reservations” that Peng was “free, safe, and not subjected to intimidation.”
“I don’t see how I can expect our athletes to participate there in good conscience,” he remarked.
The WTA has consistently demanded that Peng’s charges be thoroughly investigated.
After she accused former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault, there was considerable worry for Peng.
During a November video conference with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, she said that she was “safe and healthy.”
The WTA, on the other hand, deemed the footage “insufficient proof” of Peng’s safety.
Simon said in a long statement that he is “very worried” about the hazards that players and staff may face if the 2022 Olympics are staged in China.
“China’s leadership has failed to handle this critical problem in a credible manner,” he added.
“If strong individuals can silence women’s voices and push charges of sexual assault under the rug, the WTA’s founding principle of equality for women will suffer a major blow.”
“That is something I will not and cannot let to happen to the WTA and its players.”
Tournaments in Hong Kong are similarly affected by the ban.
Martina Navratiolva, an eighteen-time Grand Slam winner, tweeted in favor of the WTA’s position.
Billie Jean King, the former world number one and creator of the WTA, applauded the organization for adopting a firm stance.
“This is another another reason why women’s tennis is the most popular sport among female athletes,” King commented on Twitter.
“By supporting our players, the WTA is on the right side of history.”
Several players, including Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon winner, and Shelby Rogers, the US Open quarterfinalist, voiced their support for the WTA’s decision.
Julian Knight, the leader of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, praised the decision, saying, “If only other sports shown same unity and moral clarity.”
The Peng case is “far broader than business,” according to Simon.
Because to the coronavirus outbreak, there have been no WTA events in China for the previous two years.
However, in recent years, the governing body has depended largely on Chinese financing in its circuit, resulting in a number of expensive events being staged in China.
In the 2019 season, China held nine events, including the season-ending WTA Finals, with a total prize pool of $30.4 million (£22.6 million).
Simon said to Sport that he was concerned about the financial consequences of not playing in China, but that Peng’s issue is “greater than the company.”
He said, “This is something we absolutely cannot walk away from.”
“If we refuse to do what we’ve asked, we’re telling the world that not treating sexual assault with the respect and severity that it deserves is acceptable, and it isn’t.”
“It’s simply something we can’t allow happen, and it’s something we can’t walk away from.”
Peng, a former world number one in doubles, said she was pushed into a sexual connection with Zhang on the Chinese social media site Weibo.
Peng was last seen in public for a long period after the post was taken down.
On Twitter, a number of tennis players have adopted the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai to raise awareness about the situation.
Simon told Sport that he would not urge the ATP to take a same position in the men’s game, but that the governing body backed them fully.
“I don’t believe [the ATP’s decision not to cancel events] weakens our stance,” he added.
“We will continue to our stance on what is right for the WTA and women’s athletes.”
“Others will make the choices that they believe are best for them.”
He went on to say that he was still hoping that the Chinese government will “legitimately answer” Peng’s accusations.
‘I don’t have a choice.’
“I hate that it has come to this, but China’s authorities have left the WTA with no alternative,” Simon continued.
“We cannot put our players and staff at danger by conducting tournaments in China until China takes the actions we have requested.”
“People should avoid purposefully and maliciously publicizing [the problem], let alone politicize this subject,” China said in an October statement.
Zhang Gaoli, who left his official job in 2018, has yet to respond to the allegations.
In February and March of 2022, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Russell Fuller is a tennis journalist.
Steve Simon is certain that this is not an issue to be compromised on.
The WTA was founded on the principle of equality 48 years ago. What was the point of all that effort, he wonders, if major sexual assault claims are brushed under the rug?
Simon promises to take a different route next year. If the Chinese authorities “do what is appropriate,” the suspension will be lifted. However, discussions will commence with locations that may be able to host alternative WTA tournaments.
He acknowledges that a permanent exit from China would be financially disastrous for the WTA. He says he is concerned about it at all hours of the day and night, but that it is “larger than the company.”
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The “bbc sport” is reporting that the “WTA announces immediate suspension of tournaments in China”. The WTA has announced that all tournaments in China have been suspended because of the Chinese government’s decision to ban foreign players.
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