In a surprising move, women's tennis is set to return to China after the WTA banned tennis tournaments in the country late last year owing to concerns surrounding Peng Shuai's safety. The WTA recently confirmed that the WTA Finals will return to Shenzhen, China, for the 2023 season.
In a statement, the WTA announced that this year's season-ending finale has been moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and will be held from October 31-November 7. The 2022 WTA Finals were to be held in China before the association pulled out of all WTA events in the country.
In light of the new developments that will see women's tennis return to China, journalist Jon Wertheim has demanded clarification from the WTA as they have confirmed next year's event in Shenzhen.
"Again the simple question for WTA: what changed?" Wertheim wrote on Twitter in response to another tweet.
Wertheim also expressed his views on the matter in an article for Sports Illustrated, questioning the WTA for backing away from their courageous stance on the matter.
"Last November, the WTA took the principled stance —courageously; pointedly; to worldwide acclaim—that China was untenable as host because the country’s values were inconsistent with the WTA’s values," Wertheim wrote.
"China did not reply, much less comply. And now the WTA is going back? A two-word question: what changed?" he added.
Last November, the WTA banned China from hosting all tournaments on the women's tennis calendar due to the country's controversial stance on Peng Shuai. The player accused a top Chinese government officer of sexual misconduct and there have been a lot of concerns about her safety since the revelation.
She disappeared from public view for a few weeks, and any mention of her accusations was also blocked online by the country's authorities. Shuai was seen in public events thereafter, but there was still no clarity regarding her safety.
ITF president David Haggerty says tennis star Peng Shuai 'appears to be safe'
International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty recently gave an update regarding Peng Shuai's whereabouts. According to CNN, Haggerty informed them in August that he had spoken to Shuai a few weeks ago and she appeared to be safe based on the discussion he had with the Chinese player.
He did not meet Peng Shuai in person but spoke to her via a video conference call. Meanwhile, back in July, the ATP also canceled tournaments in China for the 2022 season.
However, the ATP mentioned that the tournaments had been scrapped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing local lockdowns in the country and announced a few replacement tournaments on single-year licenses. If the coronavirus situation improves, the ATP tour could also return to China in the near future.