WTA Tells China To End Censorship Of Peng Shuai Amid Concerns Over Her Whereabouts - UBITENNIS
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WTA Tells China To End Censorship Of Peng Shuai Amid Concerns Over Her Whereabouts

The disappearance of the former world No.1 has sparked concern from many in the sport but it is questionable as to how much of an impact the WTA’s statement will have on the Chinese authorities.

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Image via WTA Twitter

The head of the Women’s Tennis Association has called for a fair investigation to be launched over serious allegations made by former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai that she was sexually assaulted by a senior political official.

 

Steve Simon issued a statement on Sunday calling for the end of what he describes as ‘censorship’ against Shuai. More than a week ago the Chinese player accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex with him. The allegations sent shockwaves throughout the country as it is extremely rare for officials linked to China’s communist party to be accused of serious offences. Shuai says she had an affair with Mr Gaoli over an intermittent period of 10 years.

“I had buried it all inside me, and since you were not planning on taking responsibility at all, why did you come and look for me again, take me to your house, and force me into sex? I have no proof, and it would be impossible for me to keep any evidence. You denied everything afterward (..) That afternoon I originally did not consent and cried the whole time. ”

In the aftermath of the revelations, Chinese authorities moved swiftly to remove the post from Shuai’s Weibo account which was only online for roughly 30 minutes. Her account was also temporarily disable to prevent others from commenting on her posts and it is understood that even certain phrases were banned.

Since her post, Shuai hasn’t been seen or heard. Triggering concerns from many about her safety with the hashtag ‘WhereIsPengShuai’ being used on Twitter by players such as Alize Cornet, Liam Broady and Tara Moore. 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert has also voiced her concern on the same social media platform.

Now the governing body of women’s tennis is calling for the uncensoring of Shuai. In a statement, CEO Simon has called for a ‘transparent investigation.’

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness. In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected,” the statement reads.
“We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.
‘Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done.”

The fact the WTA has spoken out in support of Shuai is a victory in itself but it’s true impact on Shuai’s situation may be minimal. China has one of the most strict policies in the world concerning censorship and has a history of penalising their critics, even in sport.

Earlier this year the country halted streaming of NBA games involving the Boston Celtics after one of their players, Enes Kenter, called the Chinese president a ‘brutal dictator.’ In another case, a 2019 football game between Arsenal and Manchester City wasn’t shown on state broadcaster CCTV after Mesut Ozil posted a tweet about China’s treatment of the Uyghur community.

There have also been concerns raised over China’s hosting of the 2022 winter Olympics with some journalists saying they have been restricted about what they have been allowed to report on. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has called on China not to ‘limit freedom of movement and access for journalists.’

As for tennis, the WTA has extensive roots in China which regularly held a series of high-profile tournaments during the final quarter of the season prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WTA Finals is set to return to the country next year, as well as other events.

Shuai was the first Chinese player in history, male or female, to reach world No.1 in the doubles back in 2014. During her career, she has won 25 WTA titles, but only two of those occurred in singles. She last played on the Tour at the Doha Open back in February.

Shuai’s post in full

Prior to it’s removal from the internet, various users screenshot the post. One user posted a full translation on Reddit :-

I know I cannot explain this clearly, and even if I say it, it won’t matter, but I still want to let it out. I am a hypocrite. I admit I am not a good woman, and am in fact, a very very bad woman. About three years ago, Zhang Gaoli vice president, you retired. You asked Dr. Liu at the Tianjin Tennis Centre to contact me, and asked me with play tennis with you at Kang Ming Hotel in Beijing. After we finished playing tennis, you and your wife Kang Jie brought me to your home. Then you took me into your room. Like what happened ten years ago in Tianjin, you wanted to have sex with me.
That afternoon I was very afraid. I did not expect this to happen – someone helped guard outside (translator note: not very clear what she’s trying to say here), because nobody would believe that a wife would allow this. About seven years ago, we had sex. Then later on after you got promoted to be a member of the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing, you never contacted me again. I used to bury everything inside me. After all, if you didn’t want to take any responsibility, why did you come back for me, and brought me to your home to have sex? It is true that I don’t have evidence. It is also not possible to leave evidence. Later on you kept denying, but it is true that you were attracted to me first, otherwise I couldn’t have been able to come into contact with you.
That afternoon I didn’t agree, and I kept crying. I had dinner with you and auntie Kang Jie together. You said the universe is very very big. The earth is merely a speck of sand in the universe , and us human beings are smaller than even a speck of sand. You said a lot more than that, and the purpose was basically to persuade me to drop my guard. After dinner, I was still not willing to have sex. You said you hated me. You said in those seven years, you never forgot about me, and you will treat me well etc… I was terrified and anxious. Taking into consideration the affection I had for you seven years ago, I agreed… yes, we had sex.
Romantic attraction is such a complicated thing that explain it clearly. From that day on, I renewed my love for you. Throughout my time with you after that, purely based on our interactions, you were a very good person, and you treated me well. We talking about recent history, as well as ancient eras. You educated me on so many topics, and we had discussions about economics, politics. We never ran out of things to talk about. We played chess, sang, played table tennis, played pool and also played tennis together. We always had endless fun. It was as if our personalities fit perfectly together.
I left home early (translator note: professional athletes in China frequently leave their families at a very early age to train full-time). On the inside, I am extremely deprived of love. In the middle of all of this, I never thought I was a good woman. I hated myself, I hated why I came to this world. You told me you loved me, very very much, and you said you hope in the next life, we can meet each other around the age of twenty, or eighteen. You said you were lonely. You pitied yourself for being alone. We had endless things to talk about, never ran out of topics. You said in your position, it is impossible to divorce. If we met in Shandong (translator note: a province of China, of less political significance than Beijing), you would have been able to divorce, but not now. I thought I would just accompany you quietly, not making any noise.
At the beginning, everything was fine. But as time goes on, things started to change gradually. There was so much unfairness and humiliation. Every time you asked me to go to you home, behind your back your wife said so many ugly and hurtful things to me. All kinds of jeer and mockery. I said I like to eat duck tongue. Auntie Kang Jie would go, “ew so disgusting”. In the winter when Beijing had poor air quality due to smog, auntie Kang Jie would say, “it is because you live in the countryside. We don’t feel that at all here”. Things like that, she said so much of them. When you were with me, she never said those things. It is similar to when we were together. When we were together alone, you acted one way, but when there were other people near by, you would act another way.
I have told you this before, hearing those things made me feel very hurt and humiliated deep down. Since the first day when I knew you, I have never used a cent of your money, neither have I ever used you to obtain any benefits for myself, but this thing called reputation, is so important. Everything that has happened, I deserve it. I have brought everything upon myself.
From the beginning to the end, you told me to keep our relationship a secret, and most importantly of all, I was to never tell your mom we were having sexual relationships. Because it was her who drives me to the Church of the Saviour (translator note: a church in Beijing) every time, and then I would have to change to your car to be able to get into the gated apartment complex. She thought I was always just at your place to play Mahjong or poker. We were always just transparent individuals in each others lives. Your wife was like the queen in The Legend of Zhen Huan (translator note: a very popular show about power struggle within an ancient Chinese royal family), while words couldn’t describe how embarrassed I felt.
There were so many times where I thought, am I still a human? I thought I was a soulless creature, faking, faking everyday, which one is the real me? I shouldn’t have come to this world, but I don’t have the courage to die.
I really want to just live simply, but things turned out different than what I wanted. On the 30th, we argued very badly. You said on the afternoon on the 2nd, we would go to your home to slowly talk it out. Today at noon, you called to say you are busy, denied everything, made excuse to say we would talk another day… and just like this, you disappeared again, just like seven years ago.
You played with me, and dumped me when you are done with me. You said there were no transactions between us. Yes, that is true, our affection towards each other had nothing to do with money or power. But I have a hard time finding closure for, and coming to terms with our three year long relationship. You were always scared I would secretly bring a recording device, and leave evidence. That’s right, other than me, I do not have any evidence to prove what happened, no audio recording, no video taping. The only thing I have is memory from my own messed up self.
For someone as prominent as yourself, I know you said you are not afraid. But it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting a rock with an egg, or being a moth that flies towards the flame, I am telling the truth
about what happened between us. With your intelligence and wits I am sure you will either deny it, or blame it on me, or you could simply play it cool. You always say you hope your mother in heaven could bless you. I am a bad woman who doesn’t deserve to be a mother, but you are a father with both boy and girl. I have asked you this before, would you have done the same even to your adopted daughter? Do you still have the courage to face your mother after what you have done in your lifetime? We sure all like to pretend we are virtuous…

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Novak Djokovic secures win for Serbia in Davis Cup Finals in Innsbruck

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Novak Djokovic eased past Dennis Novak 6-3 6-2 to secure a 2-0 win over Austria in Group F at the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals in Innsbruck. 

 

Djokovic did not face a break point and won nine of the last eleven games to seal the win after 60 minutes. Djokovic has won his 16th consecutive Davis Cup match. The Serbian player dropped six points on his first serve and never faced any break points. He converted three of his five break points. 

Djokovic earned his first break in the eighth game with an unreturned serve to open up a 5-3 lead and closed out the first set with a hold at 15 in the ninth game after 30 minutes. 

Djokovic went up an early break at the start of the second set and opened up a 3-0 with a double break. Both players held serve in the next five games without facing any break points. Djokovic hit a backhand down the line winner to close out the match, as he was serving for the win at 5-2. 

“It feels great to play for Serbia again. We are part of an individual sport, but I love to play for my country and I try to play when they need me. It has a long year, but you always find extra motivation playing for your country”, said Djokovic. 

Earlier today Dusan Lajovic earned a late break in the third set to battle past Gerald Melzer 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 7-5 to give Serbia an early 1-0 lead. Lajovic wasted a break point but he came back to convert his fourth match point after 2 hours and 42 minutes. 

Spain beats Ecuador 3-0

Olympic bronze medallist Pablo Carreno Busta battled past Ecuador’s Emilio Gomez 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-5) to seal the win for Spain in Group A at the Caja Magica in Madrid. 

Carreno Busta wasted a 5-2 lead in the third set and two match points at 5-3, but he fought back to win the third-set tie-break 7-5 after 2 hours and 39 minutes. 

“I am very happy because it was a very important victory for the confidence and for the rhythm. In the second and third sets I felt more comfortable than in the first set. I had to continue fighting until the end because he played really well”, said Carreno Busta.  

Earlier on Friday Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez saved all five break point to beat Roberto Quiroz 6-3 6-3. 

“I still have the passion for the game. Without that passion I would not be here. I am 40 years old and have been playing on the Tour for such a long time and it is true without this passion it would not be possible to keep training each day. I have been waiting for moments like this, giving the first point to my country”, said Lopez. 

Carreno Busta and Marcell Granollers battled past Gonzalo Escobar and Diego Hidalgo 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-2) after 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

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Lorenzo Sonego and Jannik Sinner earned Italy a 2-1 win over the USA in the two singles matches in the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals at the Pala Alpitour in Turin. 

 

Turin-native player Lorenzo Sonego beat US giant Reilly Opelka 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in 1 hour and 31 minutes minutes. Sonego won 90% of his first service points and saved the only break point he faced at 3-3 before earning his first break at deuce in the eighth game after a double fault from Opelka to take a 5-3 lead. The local favourite served it out on his first set point. 

Opelka fended off a break point in the seventh game to hold serve at deuce. Both players went on serve in the next games en route to the tie-break without facing any break points. Sonego earned the decisive mini-break on the first point and held on his serve to win the tie-break 7-4. 

“It was not easy. It was the first time for me competing at the Davis Cup and I am really happy about the match. Thank you everyone”, said Sonego.

Jannik Sinner cruised past John Isner 6-2 6-0 after 1 hour and 2 minutes. Sinner won 9 consecutive games from 3-2 in the first set. Sinner broke twice in the third and seventh games to seal the opening set 6-2. Sinner went up a break in the first game before saving three consecutive break points in the second game. The Italian player earned two more breaks in the third and fifth games to take a bagel win in the second set. Sinner hit 16 winners to just 4 unforced errors. 

“Playing here was very special. Today we have already won. We have a great team and everyone is a great guy as well, so we are just trying to stay together. I am very honoured to be a part of this”, said Sinner. 

Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock edged past Fabio Fognini and Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 after 1 hour and 36 minutes.  Fognini and Musetti went up a mini-break to take a 5-4 lead, but Ram and Sock won the final three points to win the tie-break 7-5. In the second set Fognini and Musetti wasted five break points. Ram and Sock earned two breaks in the first and fifth games to close out the second set 6-2. 

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This year’s Nitto ATP Finals champions Nicholas Mahut and Pierre Hugues Herbert came back from one set down to beat Tomas Machac and Jiri Lehecka 3-6 6-4 6-3 in the decisive doubles match sealing a 2-1 win for France over Czech Republic in Group C of the Davis Cup by Rakuten in Innsbruck. 

 

Lehecka and Machac broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to win the first set 6-3. Lehecka saved four break points, but they dropped their serve in the 10th game to lose the second set 6-4. Herbert and Mahut converted their second break point to close out the third set 6-3. 

“It was difficult because the Czech team played very well, and we arrived late from Turin. I thought we had a slow start, but in the second and third sets we played well”, said Nicholas Mahut. 

Mahut and Herbert saved four of the five break points and hit five aces to seal the win after 2 hours and five minutes. 

Twenty-one year-old Machac gave an early lead to Czech Republic with a 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 over French veteran Richard Gasquet on his Davis Cup debut in the opening singles match. 

Machac came back from a break down and broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. The Czech player earned four mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-3. Gasquet saved four break points in the first game of the second set, but Machac broke serve twice to win the second set 6-2. 

“It feels really good. I am so happy I played today and won today for Czech Republic. It was a really tough match from the beginning, mentally especially. I am really happy. In the tie-break I played really well without any mistakes. That was the crucial moment”, said Machac. 

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“I was trying my best to keep fighting. I served very well in the key moments, which helps. I got used to the speed of his serve He was serving very fast and at beginning it was tough. On his second serve at the end, I was putting a lot of pressure on it”, said Mannarino. 

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