When one thinks of no-nonsense, hard-nosed sports, tennis isn’t going to be the first that comes to mind. Nevertheless, it is tennis, specifically the WTA, presently making a stand against China, the likes of which neither the NBA nor the IOC would ever consider.
The focal point for this standoff is Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. Shuai, who has won two Grand Slam doubles titles, has not been seen since making a sexual assault allegation on November second against former senior Chinese Communist Party official Zhang Gaoli. As reported by The Age:
In her Weibo message, Peng claimed to have had a decade-long, on-and-off relationship with Zhang, who is married. She alleged the relationship involved sexual contact on several occasions, but that one of those sexual encounters had not been consensual.
“That afternoon, I was very afraid. I didn’t expect it to be like this,” she wrote. “I didn’t agree to have sex with you and kept crying that afternoon.”
Earlier today, Chinese state-affiliated media circulated a message supposedly from Shuai. In it, Shuai (or whoever wrote it) insisted everything is fine, the sexual assault charge was bogus, and she’s just home chillin’. The number of people concerned about Shuai’s welfare believing the message was from her is currently holding steady at zero.
The concern for Shuai’s well-being extends to the very top of tennis. Again as reported by The Age:
WTA chief executive and chairman Steve Simon responded soon afterwards by saying the post had only heightened his fears for Peng’s safety.
“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail,” Simon said in a statement.
Unlike the aforementioned NBA and IOC, the WTA is neither playing footsie nor re-enacting the three brass monkeys with China. It has reportedly threatened to pull all 10 of the tournaments currently scheduled for China in 2022 if it cannot speak directly with Shuai. Also, unlike the NBA, major tennis players such as Novak Djokovic are speaking up and out:
“I did hear about it a week ago. Honestly, it’s shocking that she’s missing, more so that it’s someone that I have seen on the tour in the previous years quite a few times,” the Serb said after his win over Casper Ruud at the ATP Finals on Monday.
“It’s not much more to say than hope that she will be found, that she’s okay. It’s terrible … I can imagine just how her family feels that she’s missing.”
While praying for Ms. Shuai’s safety, it’s also good to see that there is at least one sport dedicated to playing with balls that actually has some when it comes to China.