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.

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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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WTA Suspends All Tournaments In China With Immediate Effect

In a statement WTA CEO Steve Simon says the decision has been made following concerns raised about the welfare of Peng Shuai.

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The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all of their tournaments in both China and Hong Kong due to what they described as a failure by the Chinese government to address serious claims of sexual harassment made by Peng Shuai against a former senior official.

 

Shuai, who is a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No.1 in doubles, published a post on her Weibo account on November 2nd accusing former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex with him. She also said the two have a one-and-off affair over a 10-year period. The post was deleted less than an hour after publication and her Weibo account is still under restriction. Shuai has not spoken in public since that post but has conducted a private video call with the IOC and two other members. One of which has links to the Chinese government. Meanwhile, state media outlets have previously published videos and photos of the tennis star claiming that she is well.

However, the WTA has repeatedly voiced concerns that Shuai is being censored by authorities due to the allegations she made against a former government official. CEO Steve Simon told reporters that he has repeatedly tried to contact Shuai but failed to get through. He has received two emails from Shuai, which was leaked online, purporting to be from her. However, the organisation believes Shuai wrote them under the influence of others.

“Chinese officials have been provided the opportunity to cease this censorship, verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault in a full, fair and transparent manner. Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” Simon said in a statement.
“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.”

Now in a dramatic turn of events, Simon has suspended all WTA events taking place in China next year after receiving backing from the board of directors. A sensational development given the country has generated millions of pounds in revenue for the Tour in recent years and has been a key area for their development as a business. In 2022 China was set to host 10 events which include the prestigious season-ending WTA Finals. A tournament which has the biggest prize money pool for women outside of the four Grand Slams. However, no tournament was held in the country in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong,” Simon stated. “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. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

The WTA has said that they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their players regardless of the financial ramifications which may occur.

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Former World No.4 Johanna Konta Retires From Tennis

The multiple Grand Slam semi-finalist says she has run out of steam as she starts a new chapter in her life.

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Johanna Konta (@the_LTA on Twitter)

Johanna Konta has announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 30 in a statement published on her social media accounts on Wednesday morning.

 

Konta, who reached the semi-finals at three different Grand Slam tournaments, said her ‘playing career had come to an end’ in a statement which was titled ‘Grateful.’ A word she said she used the most during her professional career. The revelation comes after recent speculation about the British player’s future in the sport with some saying she will not be playing at the Australian Open. Konta hadn’t played a match on the WTA Tour since August due to a knee injury. An issue which has been bothering her in recent years.

“Grateful: This is the word that I’ve probably used the most during my career, and is the word that I feel explains it best at the end,” Konta wrote.
“My playing career has come to an end, and I am so incredibly grateful for the career that it turned out to be. All the evidence pointed towards me not ‘making’ it in this profession. However my luck materialised in the people that came into my life and impacted my existence in ways that transcended tennis. I am so incredibly grateful for these people. You know who you are.
“Through my own resilience and through the guidance of others, I got to live my dreams. I got to become what I wanted and said as a child. How incredibly fortunate I count myself to be. How grateful I am.”

Born in Sydney, Australia to Hungarian parents, Konta played for Great Britain since 2012 when she officially became a British citizen. She first moved to the country at the age of 14. During her professional career, Konta was the poster girl for British tennis after achieving a series of accolades. In October 2016 she became the first female player from her country to break into the world’s top 10 in over 30 years. A year later at Wimbledon she became the first British woman to reach the last four since Virginia Wade back in 1977.

“On behalf of the LTA and everyone involved in British Tennis I want to express my appreciation to Johanna for her hugely impressive career,” LTA CEO Scott Lloyd said in a statement. “To reach the semifinals of three slams and spend more time as British number one than any other woman since the WTA rankings began, shows the level of her achievements. We wish her well in the future, and hope that she will continue to play a role in British tennis in the years to come.”

On the WTA Tour Konta finished four seasons ranked in the world’s top 20 and achieved a ranking high of fourth in July 2017. She won a total of four titles with the most recent occurring at the Nottingham Open earlier this year. She also won two titles in 2017 (Sydney and Miami), as well as one in 2016 at Stanford. Konta was also a runner-up on five other occasions at the 2016 China Open, twice at the Nottingham Open, 2018 Italian Open and 2018 Rabat International.

A former Olympian, Konta recorded more than 20 wins over top 10 players throughout her career. Some of the players she beat include Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova.

The physical demands of playing tennis at the highest level took their toll on Konta in recent years. In June she admitted that her knee problem may be a long-term issue she would have to deal with after not paying attention to the issue earlier on. She also dealt with other issues such as a thigh injury forcing her to miss the US Open in September.

“For me, it’s just about putting my emotional, mental, physical well-being in the position to put that energy and work in to be able to do that. It’s that link of being able to convince yourself to be in pain. I just ran out of steam for it,” Konta told WTA Insider.
“So when you get to that point, you can’t put your best self on display because you haven’t put in the work for it and you just don’t have the energy to put in the work for it.”

Konta, who made her pro debut in 2006, held the British No.1 spot for 5 years and 11 months consecutively which is the longest ever run since the WTA rankings was created back in 1975.

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Sports Minister Rejects Accusation Of ‘Blackmail’ Against Novak Djokovic

Martin Pakula said all players have a responsibility whilst in his country.

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INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 27: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 at OlimpiaWorld on November 27, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Pedro Salado / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

A senior member of the Victorian government has dismissed an allegation by the father of world No.1 Novak Djokovic that Australian Open organisers are blackmailing him.

 

Srdjan Djokovic said on Sunday morning that it is ‘likely’ his son wouldn’t be playing in the upcoming Grand Slam tournament due to their participation policy. All players taking part in the 2022 tournament are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in line with a health mandate that has been implemented in Victoria, the region where the event is held. Under current guidelines, players will also be tested before and upon arrival in the country.

Under these blackmails and conditions, he probably won’t play,’ Srdjan told TV Prava. ‘I wouldn’t do that, and he’s my son, so you figure out for yourself if he is going to play or not.’

Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open a record nine times, has continuously refused to publicly disclose if he is vaccinated against COVID-19 or not. Arguing that he would like to keep his medical records private. However, it has fuelled speculation that he isn’t vaccinated and therefore is unable to play in Australia. When asked about his plans for the start of 2022 at the ATP Finals in Turin, he replied ‘we’ll see’ without elaborating any further.

Martin Pakula is the sports minister for Victoria. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he denied that authorities are ‘blackmailing’ the 20-time Grand Slam champion in any way. Arguing it is the responsibility of all players to follow the same rules of those living in the state.

“If you’re a visiting international tennis player or a visiting sportsman of any kind, it’s about your responsibility to the community that you are being welcomed into,” ABC Australia quoted Pakula as saying.
“And that’s why we are asking those international tennis stars to follow the same requirements as Victorians are.
“It’s not about blackmail, it’s about making sure the Victorian community is protected.
“I want to make it clear that I really hope that Novak Djokovic gets vaccinated and plays in the Australian Open, but if he chooses not to that’s a matter for him.”

Should Djokovic not play in Australia he will miss out on the chance of breaking the all-time record for most Grand Slam titles won by a male player. He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at 20 each. Furthermore, it is possible that should he not play Daniil Medvedev might claim the No.1 ranking but the Russian would need to practically win every match he plays. Although this depends on what and how many tournaments he plays in.

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th. Djokovic has never missed the event since his debut back in 2005.

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