"Even if I no longer participate in professional competitions, I will always be a tennis player" - Peng Shuai announces her retirement

Peng Shuai at the 2017 Wuhan Open
Peng Shuai at the 2017 Wuhan Open

Peng Shuai has been at the center of a huge controversy since making sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, a high-ranking Chinese politician in November 2021. In a recent interview with L'Equipe, she cleared the air regarding the incident and also announced her retirement from tennis.

Peng acknowledged that the sport changed her life for the better and said that even if she doesn't compete professionally, she'll always remain a tennis player.

"Tennis has transformed my life, brought me joy, challenges and so much more. It is sometimes difficult to know how to say goodbye and to retire," she said. "Many people ask me this question. Even if I no longer participate in professional competitions, I will forever be a tennis player."

The former doubles No. 1 stated that the pandemic has brought many hardships and disruptions to everyday life.

"The sudden arrival of this pandemic has rendered all our projects null and void. We are all going through this pandemic which is a huge challenge. We never imagined one day being faced with this, many competitions have been canceled. Everything is completely disrupted," the 36-year-old said.
Peng Shuai : « Ma vie est comme elle doit être : rien de spécial »La joueuse de tennis s'exprime pour la première fois dans un média international et indépendant depuis sa réapparition publique et le tourbillon qui a accompagné son message du 2 novembre.

The Chinese player felt that regaining her fitness would be very difficult considering her age and the multiple surgeries she has had in the last few years.

"Considering my age (36), my multiple surgeries and the pandemic that forced me to quit for so long, I think it will be very difficult to regain my physical level," Peng said. "For about ten years the cartilage in my knee has required injections and I had two surgeries about seven years ago. In the past five years, I have had three more operations. It's a very serious injury."

The 36-year-old revealed that she used to travel to Munich to treat her knee injury, but the pandemic has made that difficult.

"Before the pandemic, I went every two to three months to Munich for my injections. With the pandemic, we can no longer predict anything. You have to travel, quarantine, train. It is almost impossible to resume normal training, recover and return to competition," she said.

Peng made her allegations of sexual assault in November last year on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The post was quickly deleted and the the former doubles No. 1 disappeared briefly from public life. Since then, she has backtracked on her statements, saying it was all an "enormous misunderstanding."

"I'm afraid of not having the level, but I thank him very much" - Peng Shuai on Nicolas Mahut's invitation to play mixed doubles at the French Open

Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships
Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships

While Peng Shuai's knee issue doesn't interrupt her daily routine, it prevents her from giving her best on court. After going under the knife for a second time, the two-time doubles Grand Slam champion said doctors were unsure if she could reach her earlier level.

"My knee problem does not prevent me from living normally, it is mainly to play tennis and participate in competitions, but these injections are not an absolute guarantee of being able to play either," she said. "As the lesion was important and my knee very painful, the doctors could only recommend the operation. When I had the second surgery, the doctors told me they weren't sure if I could resume and get back to my level."

Nicolas Mahut, who was one of the earliest to raise his voice following the Chinese star's disappearance, invited Peng Shuai to play mixed doubles at Roland Garros. While she rejected the offer, the Chinese star thanked him for his kind gesture.

"When is it? I'm afraid of not having the level. Among the professionals, the level is very high, it's too fast for me. It would be a very big pressure, because I know you have to be very fast. The demands on the sporting level, the responsiveness, the capacities are all very high. I believe that I can only integrate a team of veterans after my retirement. But I thank him very much for this invitation," Peng concluded.

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Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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