WTA receives assurances on Peng Shuai's safety as ATP comes out in support of a "full, fair and transparent" investigation

Steve Simon says he has received assurances of Peng Shuai's safety.
Steve Simon says he has received assurances of Peng Shuai's safety.

On Sunday, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon put out a statement calling for a "full, fair and transparent" investigation into Peng Shuai's sexual abuse allegations against former Vice Premier of China Zhang Gaoli. Hours after that, Simon claimed that the former doubles No. 1 player, whose whereabouts are not presently known, was "not under any physical threat".

In a detailed interview with The New York Times - who were the first to break the story - Simon revealed that he had received assurances from multiple sources, including the Chinese Tennis Federation, about Peng's safety. He added that while the WTA haven't been able to establish direct contact with Peng, they have been given to understand that she is currently in Beijing.

"We've received confirmation from several sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association, that she is safe and not under any physical threat," Simon said. "My understanding is that she is in Beijing in China, but I can’t confirm that because I haven’t spoken directly with her."

The developments come at a time when there are growing concerns regarding Peng Shuai's safety. The 35-year-old has been facing blanket censorship since first posting her story on Chinese social media website Weibo. The post was immediately taken down, and Peng has not made any public statements since.

Meanwhile, tennis' governing body for the men's tour, the ATP, has also come out in support of Peng and the WTA.

Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman (R)
Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman (R)

In an official statement released on Monday, ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi expressed concern about the deep uncertainty surrounding Peng's safety. He further said that the association was following the developments closely, before offering "full support" to WTA's call for an investigation.

"There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our tennis community," the statement read. "We have been deeply concerned by the uncertainty surrounding the immediate safety and whereabouts of WTA player Peng Shuai."
"We are encouraged by the recent assurances received by WTA that she is safe and accounted for and will continue to monitor the situation closely," the statement went on. "Separately, we stand in full support of WTA’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Peng Shuai."

"We're not going to back off this position, it's the right place to be" - WTA Chairman Steve Simon on the Peng Shuai issue

Steve Simon (first from left) in Shenzhen for the 2019 WTA Finals.
Steve Simon (first from left) in Shenzhen for the 2019 WTA Finals.

Steve Simon doubled down on the WTA's earlier stance in The New York Times interview, asking for a full investigation into Peng Shuai's allegations.

The WTA has major business interests in China, with as many as 11 tournaments being played in the country every year - including the the WTA Finals. In that context, Simon said he was aware of the risks that came with taking a bold stance on the issue, but that he believed their current position was the "right place to be".

He also said the WTA was "100% supportive" of its players, before adding that they were "not going to back off".

"I'm not sitting here and thinking that I’m going to solve the world’s problems by any means," Simon said. "But what I am here to do is that we have an athlete that’s part of the WTA family that’s come out with serious allegations. We’re going to be 100 percent supportive of that, and we want to see a full investigation on this."
"If that isn’t the case and if they are not cooperative, then we’ll have to make some decisions," he added. "And we’re prepared to do so, and that’s the best we can do. But we’re not going to back off this position. It’s the right place to be."

Meanwhile, several former players - including Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova - have come forward in voicing their support for Peng Shuai. Here are the tweets by the three legends on the issue:

Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated.
A very strong stance by WTA- and the correct stance!👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽
Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated.🙏…

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Edited by Musab Abid
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