IOC Chief Claims Peng Shuai Is Safe Due To Her ‘Relaxed Impression’ During Video Call - UBITENNIS
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IOC Chief Claims Peng Shuai Is Safe Due To Her ‘Relaxed Impression’ During Video Call

In his first public statement since his video call with the tennis player, Thomas Bach failed to speak about the allegations of sexual assault.



The head of the International Olympic Committee has claimed a 30-minute conversation with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai over the weekend has enabled him to conclude that she is ‘safe and well.’


Thomas Bach was the first senior international figure to speak with the former world No.1 doubles player after a post appeared on her Weibo accusing a former government official of sexual assault. On November 2nd a 1500-word statement believed to be uploaded by Shuai accused China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into sex and that the two had an affair over a 10-year period. The post was removed less than an hour after it was published and restrictions have been placed on Shuai’s Weibo account ever since. She then vanished from the public eye shortly afterwards before state-run media posted a series of photos and videos claiming she is safe.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has voiced their concerns that Shuai is being censored by authorities in her country and hasn’t been allowed to speak freely. Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the governing body, has called for an investigation to be made into the allegations. He has also threatened to cancel tournaments in China should they not receive guarantees about Shuai’s welfare.

However, the IOC has taken a more lenient approach to the matter. Over the weekend they issued a press release confirming that they had a 30-minute conversation with the two-time Grand Slam doubles champion. Also in attendance was IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. Lingwei is a former secretary of China’s communist party.

“You know the whole world was concerned and about her safety and well-being including the IOC. This is why we took various contacts from the moment this issue came up. She assured us she is well and safe but wants her privacy respected for obvious reasons and we offered her support and further conversations,” Back said during an online interview with the AIPS Young Reporters group.

The IOC has been accused by the Human Rights Watch of sportswashing which is the practice of using sport to improve its image. In a statement the organisation urged them to not promote Chinese propaganda. The WTA has also said that they still have their concerns over Shuai’s safety. The IOC statement failed to address the allegations of sexual assault, how they managed to set up their video call in the first place and why some governing bodies such as the WTA have been unable to contact Shuai.

Nevertheless, Bach says Shuai’s ‘relaxed impression’ during their call is proof that everything is well. A somewhat dubious claim from a person who is a fully qualified lawyer in his native Germany.

“We also offered a meeting when we come in January and this video call and this 30-minutes’ conversation gave a relaxed impression we can all conclude that she is safe and well,” Bach claims. ”But we will keep in contact and this is why we proposed to have a meeting there in January when we come to Beijing. She was telling us that she was with her family and friends and wants to be involved in her beloved sport of tennis.’
“I know, from all the reactions we have got, that what the world wanted to know is that she safe and well and this was the appearance in this video live conference.”

Bach’s claim that all is well with Shuai has failed to ease the concerns with some branding the IOC’s call as a disaster. The timing of the situation comes just months before the 2022 Winter Olympic Games which will be held in Beijing. It should also be noted that Gaoli, who has not been seen in public since the allegations, was a key figure in the organisation of the Games prior to his retirement.

News of Shuai’s Weibo post have been censored in China with no leading news outlet reporting on the developments. The country’s media is under government control. Even an article which was published by the public broadcaster of Hong Kong was later deleted due to what some suspect might be Chinese influence.

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Luca Van Assche edges past Abdullah Shelbayh at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah



Luca Van Assche beat Abdullah Shelbayh 4-3 (7-5) 3-4 (5-7) 4-1 4-1 to move to 1-0 in Red Group at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah. 


Shelbayh thrilled the crowd with net approaches and drop shots but he converted just 2 of his 17 break points. 

Both players were making their first appearance at the Next Gen Finals. 

Shelbayh hit 28 winners to Van Assche’s 17. Van Assche made only 19 unforced errors to Shelbayh’s 34. 

Van Assche earned an early break in the first game and saved three break points to hold serve on the deciding point in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Shelbayh broke back at love in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Van Assche came back from 2-4 down to win the tie-break 7-5.

The second set went on serve en route to the tie-break. Van Assche saved four break points in the third game to hold serve on the deciding point. Shelbayh earned four set points at 6-2. Van Assche saved the first three set points to claw his way back to 5-6, but Shelbayh earned his fourth mini-break with a drop-shot to seal the tie-break 7-5. 

Van Assche broke twice in the first and fifth games to win the third set 4-1. Shelbayh converted his third break point in the first game of the fourth set to take a 1-0 lead, but Van Assche won four consecutive games with two breaks of serve. 

Van Assche won seven of the ten deciding points of the match. 

“It was a tough match today against a tough opponent. I know Abdullah very well. He is an amazing player. He was almost at home with the crowd cheering for him. It was a good match for me and really tough from the beginning to the end. It is very difficult not to have a warm-up. I just hit a couple of balls before I entered the court”, said Van Assche. 

Shelbayh received a strong support of the crowd from neighbouring Jordan. 

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Flavio Cobolli beats Dominic Stricker on his debut at the Next Gen Finals



Flavio Cobolli overcame 2022 semifinalist Dominic Stricker 4-2 3-4 (4-7) 4-1 4-2 after 1 hour and 39 minutes on his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah to move to 1-0 in Green Group. 


Cobolli converted four of his five break points and won nine of his ten games on the deciding point.

Sticker earned the first break point in the second game of the opening set, but Cobolli saved it with a forehand inside-out on the deciding point. Cobolli fended off another break point on the deciding point with a first serve winner in the fourth game. The Italian player broke serve in the fifth game on the deciding point with a forehand passing shot to take a 3-2 lead and served out the first set at 15. 

The second set went on serve in the first three games with no break points. Stricker earned a break point in the fourth game, but Cobolli saved it to hold serve for 2-2. Stricker went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break with a mini-break on the second point, but Cobolli pulled the mini-break back to draw level to 5-5. Cobolli saved two set points at 5-6 with a forehand down the line and another chance at 6-7. Stricker converted his third set point to win the tie-break 9-7 after 56 minutes.

Cobolli went down 0-40 on serve in the first game of the third set, but he won four consecutive points to save four break points to hold serve on the deciding point. The Italian player won 11 of the next 12 points and broke serve in the second game to open up a 2-0 lead. Stricker rallied from 0-40 down to 40-40, but Cobolli held serve on the deciding point with a forehand in the third game. Stricker earned three break points at 1-3 15-40 but Cobolli saved them to hold serve on the deciding point for 4-1.   

The fourth set started with a series of breaks and counterbreaks, as Cobolli took a 2-1 lead with a break on the deciding point and held serve at 30 to open up a 3-1 lead. Cobolli earned a match point, but Stricker saved it on the deciding point. Cobolli served out the win on his second match point in the sixth game.

Cobolli will face Arthur Fils in the second match on Wednesday.

“I warmed up for a lot of time, so I was really hot on the court. I started the match really well. The courts are so fast, but I was faster than Stricker. I played a really good match and I am really happy”, said Cobolli.

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Arthur Fils edges Luca Nardi in the opening match of the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah



Arthur Fils made a winning start to Green Group with a 2-4 4-3 (8-6) 4-2 1-4 4-2 win of Luca Nardi after 2 hours and 2 minutes in the opening match of the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.


Fils served at 51% and faced only two break points. 

Both players went on serve in the first four games. Nardi earned his first break at 15 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, when Fils netted a forehand. Nardi served for the set at 3-2 and fired a service winner to close out the first set in 19 minutes. 

Both players went on serve in the second set en route to the tie-break. Nardi fired an ace on the sixth point to draw level to 3-3. Fils earned a mini-break  after Nardi made a loose backhand. Nardi pulled the mini-break back to draw level to 4-4 and forced a mistake from Fils to earn a set point at 5-5. 

Fils saved a set point at 5-6 with a service winner. The Frenchman earned a mini-break at 7-6 to wrap up the tie-break of the second set 8-6 after 55 minutes. 

Fils broke serve at 15 in the first game of the third set after a lucky net cord winner and earned another break point at 2-0. Nardi won the decisive point with a forehand down the line winner to hold serve in the third game. Fils held serve at 30 in the sixth game to win the third set 4-2 after 1 hour and 18 minutes. 

Nardi faced two break points in the first game of the fourth set and saved them on the deciding point. 

Nardi broke Fils in the fifth game when Fils made a forehand error. The Italian player closed out the fourth set with a service winner in the sixth game forcing the match to the fifth set after 1 hour and 38 minutes. 

Both players went on serve in the opening five games of the decider. Nardi wasted a game point, and Fils earned the decisive break with a return winner to seal the win after 2 hours and 3 minutes. 

Fils won the first ATP title in Lyon last May and finished the season at number 36. The Frenchman started 2023 at number 249, making the biggest jump into the top 50 from last yeat of any player on Tour. 

“It was a tough match. The first set in my life I am playing first to four games. Things can change very quickly. I was leading two sets to one, had break points and I was feeling very good. Then I lost a deuce point and everything changed, but I I am really happy to win today”, said Fils. 

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