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

  • Australian Open: Nadal downs Khachanov to secure fourth-round berth Australian Open: Nadal downs Khachanov to secure fourth-round berth

    Rafael Nadal continued his search for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title with a routine victory over Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open.

    The Spaniard, aiming to achieve the record for most grand slams won by a man, cruised past Khachanov with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 third-round victory at the first major of 2022 on Friday.

    Nadal improved upon his perfect 7-0 record against the Russian, who he last faced at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, and has only ever lost two of 20 sets in meetings between the pair.

    The 35-year-old will now wait to see whether he faces Aslan Karatsev, the 18th seed in Melbourne, or Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round.

     

    Nadal raced out the blocks, breaking the 25-year-old at the first time of asking as he grasped a 3-0 lead within the opening exchanges at Rod Laver Arena.

    The 28th seed Khachanov fought back to 5-3 down but Nadal produced another dominant service to secure the first set, in which he dropped just one point on his serve.

    A marathon first service game of the second set eventually ended with Nadal again breaking Khachanov after a gruelling 13 minutes and seven deuces before claiming the second set in straightforward fashion.

    However, Khachanov – who managed silver at the Tokyo Olympics – bounced back in the third with Nadal making numerous mistakes and unable to cope with his mammoth forehand.

    Nadal managed to regain his composure in the following set, celebrating enthusiastically after breaking Khachanov's first service game, before outclassing his opponent, who seemed to run out of steam in a match that lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes.

    DATA SLAM: Nadal powers on at Melbourne Park

    Nadal has lost on only two occasions in his career when boasting a two-set lead, with the most recent coming against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-final of this tournament last year.

    Despite a spirited fightback from the Russian, Nadal moved onto a 72-15 record at the year's first major, with only Roger Federer (102) and Novak Djokovic (82) recording more victories at Melbourne Park.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Nadal – 39/30

    Khachanov – 36/42

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Nadal – 4/6

    Khachanov – 14/3

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Nadal – 5/15

    Khachanov – 1/5

  • Australian Open: 'This is the biggest step, even though I lost' – Osaka proud despite defeat Australian Open: 'This is the biggest step, even though I lost' – Osaka proud despite defeat

    Naomi Osaka is taking pride from her Australian Open campaign despite suffering a shock third-round exit to unseeded Amanda Anisimova on Friday.

    The two-time Melbourne champion fell short in her latest title defence with a 4-6 6-3 7-6 (10-5) loss to Anisimova in a thrilling contest on Margaret Court Arena.

    Osaka, who eased past Camila Osorio and Madison Brengle in straight sets in the first two rounds, squandered two match points to overcome 20-year-old opponent Anisimova.

    It means the Japanese star has now failed to defend any of her four major crowns, with Victoria Azarenka the last women's player to do so at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013.

    But competing in her first competitive event since exiting the US Open to Leylah Fernandez in September, Osaka was pleased with her efforts.

    "I fought for every point. I can't be sad about that," said Osaka, who nearly walked away from tennis last year.

    "I'm not God, I can't win every match. It would be nice to win the tournament, but I can't think of winning the grand slam at the start of the year every time.

    "I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last time I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude, so I'm really happy, even though I lost. I'm happy how it went."

    Osaka's Australian Open title defence has been halted by a breakthrough American talent for the second time, having previously lost to Coco Gauff at the same stage in 2020.

    Despite match points passing the world number 13 by, she refused to be too downbeat by the manner of the defeat.

    "There are days that I'm going to have bad days, and there are days that I'm going to have great days," she said. 

    "It's always random, and I never know, but no matter what happens for me, I just want to leave the court knowing that I fought for every point.

    "Today, of course there were things I felt I could improve on, but even with that, I had two match points, and I think that's something that I can be proud of myself for."

    Osaka had dropped just one set in her first five matches this season and looked in the mood as she raced ahead against Anisimova.

    But Anisimova hit more than twice the number of winners that Osaka managed (46 to 21) to pull off a huge upset and set up a last-16 clash with top seed Ash Barty.

    The American lifted her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2 earlier this month and has now won 10 of the last 11 matches she has played, including all eight in 2022. 

    It is the first time Anisimova has won from match point down since the 2019 Mallorca Open and the youngster was lost for words in her on-court interview.

    "I'm speechless. I absolutely love playing in front of you guys [the crowd] in Melbourne. It's honestly so much fun. I can't stop smiling," she said.

    "I knew I had to be playing sharp if I wanted to give myself a chance, Naomi is always going to be playing well and she's an absolute champion. 

    "I knew I had to step up my game and try to be aggressive, I think that's what I started doing in the second set.

    "I'm so grateful I was able to play well and get this win, it means a lot. Stepping on to the court, all I'm thinking is having fun. Every day here is an amazing opportunity."

  • Australian Open: Barty had no expectations of Osaka meeting Australian Open: Barty had no expectations of Osaka meeting

    Ash Barty insisted she had no expectations Naomi Osaka would be her fourth-round opponent at the Australian Open after the Japanese star's surprise loss.

    Barty and Osaka were on track to meet in the last 16 in Melbourne before the latter suffered a three-set loss to Amanda Anisimova on Friday.

    World number one Barty, who crushed Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3, always felt there were no certainties despite all the talk about a potential clash against Osaka.

    "That was your expectation. My expectation was whoever it would be. I mean, each match is uncertain," she said.

    "Each match of tennis, there are no certainties. You have no idea what's going to happen. You just have to navigate your way through as best you can that given moment.

    "I have done a good job of that this week. Now it's exciting to get to play Amanda again. We've played before. It will be nice to play each other again in a big match."

    Barty and Anisimova will meet for the first time since their 2019 French Open semi-final, which the former won on her way to a maiden grand slam title.

    That match was a "turning point" in Barty's career. After losing the first set despite leading 5-1, Barty fell 3-0 behind in the second, only to fight back for a 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 victory.

    "I try to forget, but also, I remember that I learned a lot from that moment," Barty said.

    "That was a turning point in my career, and you have to be able to take learnings from those moments, as hard as they are sometimes, and I was able to navigate and find a way through.

    "At that point in my life, in my career, it was a massive turning point.

    "Obviously it feels like it's a lifetime ago, but some of those memories are still really vivid. Without a doubt we will take that and use that experience, use those feelings and those emotions as best we can come Sunday."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.