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Wednesday, 19 January 2022 04:23 GMT

Sri Lanka - WTA announces immediate suspension of tournaments in China


(MENAFN- Colombo Gazette)

The Women's Tennis Association has announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China amid concern for Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

WTA chief Steve Simon said he had“serious doubts” that Peng was“free, safe and not subject to intimidation”.

“In good conscience, I don't see how I can ask our athletes to compete there,” he said.

The WTA has repeatedly called for a full investigation into Peng's claims.

There was widespread concern for Peng after she accused former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

She said she was “safe and well” during a video call with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, in November.

However, the WTA said the video was“insufficient evidence” of Peng's safety.

In a lengthy statement, Simon said he was“greatly concerned” about the risks players and staff could face if events were held in China in 2022.

“The leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” he said.

“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback.

“I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

The suspension also includes tournaments in Hong Kong.

Former world number one and WTA founder Billie Jean King praised the organisation for taking a strong stand.

“This is another reason why women's tennis is the leader in women's sports,” King wrote on Twitter.

“The WTA is on the right side of history in supporting our players.”

A number of players, including two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and US Open quarter-finalist Shelby Rogers, tweeted their support for the WTA's decision.

Julian Knight MP, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said he welcomed the stance, adding:“If only other sports showed this solidarity and moral clarity.”

There have been no WTA events in China for the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the governing body has heavily relied on Chinese investment in its tour in recent years, leading to a number of lucrative tournaments being held in the country.

China hosted nine tournaments in the 2019 season, including the season-ending WTA Finals, with a total of $30.4m (£22.6m) in prize money. (Courtesy BBC)

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