The global tennis community has grown alarmed as Peng has not been seen since making allegations of sexual assault against a former Chinese vice premier; Osaka said: “Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok”
Last Updated: 17/11/21 7:19am
Naomi Osaka said she was concerned over the whereabouts of fellow tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not been heard from since making allegations of sexual assault against a former Chinese vice premier.
Peng, one of China’s biggest sport stars, said on social media earlier this month a former member of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli, coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
The global tennis community has grown alarmed as Peng has not been seen since the post and on Monday the governing body of men’s tennis (ATP) backed the Women’s Tennis Association’s (WTA) call for China to investigate the allegations.
“I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused,” said four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka. “Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok.
“I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way. #whereispengshuai.”
WTA chief Simon told the New York Times on Sunday no one at the Tour has talked directly to Peng but he had received assurances from the Chinese Tennis Association she was safe “and not under any physical threat”.
The Chinese Tennis Association did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old Peng was the first Chinese player to top the world rankings when she was doubles number one in 2014. She won doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
Zhang, now 75, was a vice premier between 2013 and 2018 and served on the Politburo Standing Committee between 2012 and 2017.
Novak Djokovic described it as “shocking” Peng has not been seen since posting allegations on social media.
Djokovic said: “I don’t have much information about it. I did hear about it a week ago. Honestly, it’s shocking that she’s missing, more so that it’s someone that I have seen on the tour in the previous years quite a few times.
“It’s not much more to say than hope that she will be found, that she’s OK. It’s just terrible. I can imagine just how her family feels that she’s missing.”
Stacey Allaster, the former CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), said the tennis world has put Peng’s health and safety ahead of business.
“Our sport is focusing on the health and safety of Peng Shuai, business is secondary,” said Allaster, who is Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, with the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
“It is tough and it also is tough for this very courageous young woman that has broken her silence and come forward with these allegations.”