WTA

Olympic chiefs hold new Peng Shuai video call and stick to 'quiet diplomacy' stance after WTA takes direct action

By Sports Desk December 02, 2021

The International Olympic Committee says it has spoken to Peng Shuai for a second time and will hold a "personal meeting" in January with the Chinese tennis star amid continuing concerns for her safety.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Olympic body repeated a previous message that it was taking a "quiet diplomacy" route and speaking to Chinese sport bodies about what it described as "the difficult situation she is in".

Peng made allegations in November of sexual assault against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee. The two-time doubles grand slam winner posted the allegations on social media site Weibo, though her post has since been removed and her whereabouts since have been unclear.

The WTA, which runs the main women's tennis tour, suspended its upcoming tournaments in China on Wednesday owing to its ongoing worries about Peng's wellbeing.

An email allegedly sent by Peng was received recently by WTA chairman Steve Simon, with the message saying the sexual assault allegations were false and that the tennis star was safely at home. Simon said that email only heightened his worries over Peng's safety.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach was pictured in conversation by video link with Peng last month, and now the IOC says there was further contact on Wednesday with the 35-year-old former French Open and Wimbledon doubles winner.

The IOC said: "We share the same concern as many other people and organisations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai. This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.

"There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation. Since she is a three-time Olympian, the IOC is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organisations.

"We are using 'quiet diplomacy' which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organisations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.

"The IOC's efforts led to a half-hour videoconference with Peng Shuai on 21 November, during which she explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in. This was reconfirmed in yesterday's call. Our human and person-centred approach means that we continue to be concerned about her personal situation and will continue to support her."

Beijing, China's capital, is due to host the Winter Olympics in February. There could be a heightened focus on Peng should the situation not be satisfactorily resolved by then.

There has been no suggestion of the Games being in any doubt due to the global concern over Peng, but the women's tennis tour will not be visiting China for the foreseeable future, barring a change in circumstances.

WTA chairman Simon said on Wednesday: "In good conscience, I don't see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault."

Related items

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic takes his tennis 'up a notch' as he serves up Centre Court drubbing Wimbledon: Djokovic takes his tennis 'up a notch' as he serves up Centre Court drubbing

    Novak Djokovic warned Wimbledon title pretenders his game is improving with every round as he eased past fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Centre Court.

    Defending champion Djokovic won 6-0 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 53 minutes to book a last-16 clash with Dutch wild card Tim van Rijthoven.

    The 20-time grand slam winner will carry out due diligence on Wimbledon rookie Van Rijthoven, who is through to the fourth round on his debut and has reeled off eight successive wins.

    Van Rijthoven won the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships in the lead-up to this fortnight, stunning world number one Daniil Medvedev in the final.

    Yet on the form that saw Djokovic crush Kecmanovic's hopes, Van Rijthoven will surely stand little hope of going any deeper into the tournament.

    Djokovic won 88 per cent of points when landing his first serve in court, and he has now reached the fourth round at Wimbledon on 14 occasions, a performance only beaten in men's singles by Roger Federer (18) and Jimmy Connors (16).

    "I thought I started off very, very well, very strong with a lot of good intensity, good focus," Djokovic said in an on-court interview.

    "Honestly, I think I've been playing better and better as the tournament progresses, so that's something you wish for as a player, that every match you play you raise a level of tennis up a notch, at least, and I think that's what is happening at the moment.

    "I know I can always do better, I always expect the highest from myself, and so far, so good, and I'm looking forward to the next challenge."

    Data slam: Familiarity breeds familiar outcome

    The battle of these Davis Cup team-mates was always unlikely to go the way of the 25th seed, and so it proved that Kecmanovic could not cope with the animal that Centre Court brings out in Djokovic.

    This was a third career meeting in tournament action for the pair, with both previous encounters having come at the Serbia Open. Kecmanovic took the opener against Djokovic before slumping to defeat when they played in Belgrade in April, but this was a rout, the 22-year-old underdog trampled.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Djokovic – 36/19
    Kecmanovic– 13/27

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Djokovic – 6/4
    Kecmanovic – 1/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Djokovic - 6/12
    Kecmanovic - 1/4

  • Wimbledon: Isner breaks Karlovic's ATP Tour ace record Wimbledon: Isner breaks Karlovic's ATP Tour ace record

    Another big-serving display from John Isner at Wimbledon means he now has the most ATP Tour aces on record.

    Ivo Karlovic – one of only two tennis stars taller than the giant Isner – had set the benchmark with 13,728 across his career, the most since aces were first tracked in 1991.

    But Isner has chipped away at that total over the course of this week at the All England Club.

    The American's 54 aces in five sets against Enzo Couacaud in the first round made him the first player to pass 50 in a grand slam match since he had last done so versus Steven Johnson at the 2020 US Open.

    And there were a further 36 in an epic second-round win over Andy Murray, leaving Isner just four short of matching Karlovic and five away from passing him.

    Against Jannik Sinner, in Friday's third round, Isner raced past his target, tallying 12 aces in the first set alone.

    It is a record Isner is likely to own for some time, with 43-year-old Karlovic absent from the ATP Tour this year and playing only six main-draw matches in 2021.

    Roger Federer is third on the list, way back on 11,478.

  • Wimbledon: With her 43rd grand slam singles shot, Heather Watson finally reaches a fourth round Wimbledon: With her 43rd grand slam singles shot, Heather Watson finally reaches a fourth round

    Beaming Brit Heather Watson got her reward for years of persistence at Wimbledon by reaching round four of a singles grand slam for the first time.

    Watson also earned herself a rare day off, after a hectic start to her campaign, by racking up a 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 victory over 21-year-old Slovenian Kaja Juvan.

    In singles, Watson is a four-time WTA event winner and this was a 43rd grand slam main-draw appearance, yet she had only reached the third round in a major four times before this campaign.

    Watson, who has lost in round one on all 10 of her US Open singles appearances, now has a last-16 match at Wimbledon inked into her diary, achieving at the age of 30 what many thought would come much earlier in her career. Germany's Jule Niemeier awaits Watson, with a quarter-final place on the line.

    Guernsey star Watson's previous best Wimbledon singles runs came in 2012, 2015 and 2017, when she was halted by Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka respectively.

    In mixed doubles, she was a champion with Finland's Henri Kontinen in 2016 and a runner-up in 2017, but singles is where it matters most.

    This week she has faced Tamara Korpatsch, Wang Qiang and world number 62 Juvan, a kind run compared to previous Wimbledons, and Watson has taken advantage. She has unusually had to play every day so far, however, with her first-round and second-round matches both spanning two days.

    A former world number 38, Watson has drifted to 121st in the WTA rankings. She won just five games when well beaten by Juvan at last year's US Open, but this time it was Watson's day.

    It was a match she would have fancied, given Juvan had already lost four times this season to players ranked outside the top 100.

    Watson said in an on-court BBC interview: "Wow, what an atmosphere. I actually wasn't that nervous, but first time in the fourth round, I'm so happy. I'm not speechless because I'm blabbing on, but I don't know what to say. It means everything."

    She has taken inspiration from seeing fellow Britons Katie Boulter, Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady battle through early matches.

    "It really helps. I've watched all of their matches," Watson said. "It's really inspiring, and we're all egging each other on."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.