Tennis legend Chris Evert has expressed further concern for Peng Shuai's safety, declaring that she will not believe the Chinese athlete is free until she is allowed to leave her home country.
Peng sent the tennis world into a panic in November 2021, when she briefly disappeared. This came just days after she accused a high-ranking Chinese political leader of sexual assault on the social media site Weibo. Her disappearance led to massive outrage, with calls for her safety echoing around the world.
The two-time doubles Slam champion recently appeared in public and rowed back her original allegations, claiming her words had been misinterpreted.
Since then, she has been spotted on and off, including at the ongoing Winter Olympics in Beijing. But alarmingly, the 36-year-old is yet to leave China's confines in more than three months.
Evert took to Twitter to express the same concerns most people have had regarding the situation. The American remarked that as long as Peng remains in China, it will be impossible to ascertain whether she is as accessible and safe as the CCP wants people to believe.
Furthermore, she also hailed the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) for their decision to cancel all tournaments in China in the wake of what happened to one of their members.
"Until Peng Shuai sets foot in another country, I will continue to believe her freedom has been taken away," Evert wrote on Twitter. "Proud of Steve Simon and the WTA for postponing tournaments in China."
For reference, the WTA announced in December 2021 that due to the Chinese government's inability to conduct a proper, transparent investigation into Peng's allegations, all future tournaments in the country would be suspended.
The WTA showing solidarity with Peng Shuai and taking on a powerhouse like China was well-received by all quarters.
Peng Shuai announced her retirement from tennis earlier this month
Amid the drama surrounding her appearance at the Winter Olympics, Peng Shuai announced her retirement from tennis. In an interview with French outlet L'Equipe last week, the Chinese thanked the sport for playing an essential role in her life and added that even if she did not play professional tennis anymore, she would "forever be 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," Peng said. "Many people ask me this question. Even if I no longer participate in professional competitions, I will forever be a tennis player."
The 36-year-old cited her prolonged absence from the game due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as her age.
"Considering my age, 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.