Tennis, a largely solitary sport that’s become known for the often lonely grind to the top, recently found its players banding together for a reason no one saw coming: Taking on China. For the players, this is a good start – but many believe there’s more to be done.
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, a 35-year-old who has been ranked as high as 14 in the world in singles and number one in doubles, disappeared after making allegations of sexual assault against former top Chinese official Zhang Gaoli on Nov 2. Her accusations were swiftly wiped from the web in China, and Peng ceased being seen or heard from publicly – until Chinese state media began publishing specific video footage as well as an email purportedly from the tennis star where she recanted her accusations and claimed to be fine.
The situation has garnered media attention across the globe, particularly after the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) publicly called out China and repeatedly expressed concerns about Peng’s safety and freedom. WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon even threatened to pull out of all tournaments in the country, a move that would certainly affect the association’s revenue. (RELATED: CNN Calls Out China Live On Air For Censoring Their Peng Shuai Coverage)
The Daily Caller spoke with over half a dozen current WTA and ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals] players and coaches about Peng, the battle with China and what’s next. Some players spoke on condition of anonymity, often citing worry over China, where many have to travel to for tournaments throughout the year.
Among them all, a common theme reigned: Players, currently competing on all levels of the professional circuit, have a lot of fight left for Peng, and they hope that other organizations and countries will take up the fight as well.
In particular, many players the Caller spoke with expressed hope that countries like the U.S. will do more to pressure China over the situation.
“I think all nations should be doing more,” Australian WTA coach Damon Lucht said. “I don’t think it just should be up to the U.S. I think the U.S. being such a superpower puts themselves in a position – I don’t think it’s [just] a U.S. thing … It’s a Tennis Australia thing, I think it’s a USTA [United States Tennis Association] thing, I think it’s a humanitarian thing. I think if it was Serena Williams or Ash Barty, people would be cracking the shits already.”
“All of us should be standing up saying, ‘what is actually going on here?”’ Lucht added.
WTA player Marcela Zacarias pointed out Shuai’s dedication to the sport and noted that “if her country is against her, I would hope someone or something bigger can help her.” Other players echoed these comments, with one WTA player highlighting the fact that China is a communist country and expressing concern that “they can have so much control over the world in that type of government.”
If someone’s life is in danger because they’re coming out against something so serious, then yeah, I think countries that have a lot of power should be able to maybe have some say or input for sure,” the player said. “If there’s any way that there could be input from other organizations and countries, then I don’t see why there shouldn’t be.”
The White House, after first declining to comment, issued a statement Nov. 19 expressing their “concern” involving reports of Peng’s unknown whereabouts.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to be missing after accusing a former PRC senior official of sexual assault,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “We join in the calls for PRC authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe.”