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ATP fails to follow WTA’s China boycott over concerns for Peng

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There have been concerns over the welfare of Peng Shuai. Credit: Andy Brownbill/AP

There have been concerns over the welfare of Peng Shuai. Credit: Andy Brownbill/AP

AP

There have been concerns over the welfare of Peng Shuai. Credit: Andy Brownbill/AP

The ATP has expressed concern for Peng Shuai but stopped short of joining the WTA in suspending tournaments in China.

WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon has taken a strong stance against the tour’s biggest market since former world doubles No.1 Peng made an allegation of sexual assault against a senior Chinese official on social media last month that was swiftly removed.

The WTA has been unable to gain proof that Peng is free of censorship and coercion, while Simon’s call for the 35-year-old’s claim to be fully investigated appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

Simon said in a statement on Wednesday: “If powerful people can suppress voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen.

“Given the state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

Concerns for the welfare of Peng have prompted a rare show of unity in tennis, but so far that does not look set to extend to a sport-wide boycott of China.

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said: “The situation involving Peng Shuai continues to raise serious concerns within and beyond our sport. The response to those concerns has fallen short.

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“We again urge for a line of open direct communication between the player and the WTA in order to establish a clearer picture of her situation.

“We know that sport can have a positive influence on society and generally believe that having a global presence gives us the best chance of creating opportunity and making an impact.

“We will continue to consult with our members and monitor any developments as this issue evolves.”

The International Tennis Federation, which runs events at the lower tiers of the sport, also made no mention of pulling out of the country in its statement, saying: “The International Tennis Federation, as the governing body of tennis, stands in support of all women’s rights.

“Our primary concern remains Peng Shuai’s well-being. The allegations Peng made must be addressed. We will continue to support all efforts being made to that end, both publicly and behind the scenes.”

Tournaments have not been played in China for two years because of the pandemic, and there are none scheduled for the first part of 2022, meaning the governing bodies can afford a wait-and-see approach.

There is more urgency for the International Olympic Committee with the Winter Olympics in Beijing only two months away and talk of a boycott growing.


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