Peng Shuai Denies Sexual Assault Allegations In First Meeting With Western Media - UBITENNIS
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Peng Shuai Denies Sexual Assault Allegations In First Meeting With Western Media

During a interview with a French newspaper, Peng spoke at length about recent developments in her life.

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Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai says a ‘huge misunderstanding’ has occurred over a Weibo post by her in which she accused a former senior political figure of sexual abuse.

 

On November 2nd the two-time Grand Slam doubles champion published a lengthy post alleging that former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had forced her into sex during a years-long relationship. Sending shockwaves around the world as it is rare that such claims are made against senior members of the Chinese Communist Party who control most of the country’s media outlets.

The post vanished from the internet less than an hour after being posted and Peng disappeared from the public spotlight for weeks. Promoting international concern over her welfare amid fears she is being censored by authorities. Her claims were never covered by news outlets in China who are closely linked to the government. However, those same organizations subsequently published various photos and videos of the tennis star on social media aimed at the Western media.

Peng is currently in Beijing, where the Winter Olympic Games are taking place. For the first time since her Weibo post she has spoken to Western journalists after French sports newspaper L’Equipe were granted permission following a request. The interview took place under a series of agreements, including that she only answers in Chinese even though she has previously conducted press conferences in English. Also present during the interview was Mr Wang Kan, chief of staff for the Chinese Olympic Committee who acted as a translator. L’Equipe also used a Paris-based translator to verify what was said.

“There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it,” Peng said during an hourlong interview.

The 36-year-old now insists that she never made any allegations of sexual assault against Gaoli despite the post which rapidly disappeared. When asked why it was removed, Peng said she deleted it. Questioned as to why she did so, she replied ‘because I wanted to.’ Censors in China prevented replicas of the post to be uploaded online and Peng’s Weibo account was censored from allowing others to comment on her posts.

Peng denies that she disappeared shortly after the publication of her Weibo post. Instead, she says she couldn’t reply to the sheer amount of messages which were being sent to her. Prior to L’Equipe, her only communication with a non-Chinese organization has been the International Olympic Committee who previously held video calls with her prior to the Olympics.

“I never disappeared. It’s just that many people, like my friends or people from the IOC messaged me, and it was simply impossible to answer so many messages,” she said.
“But I’ve been always in close contact with my close friends. I talked to them, I answered their emails, I also talked with the WTA.”

Peng says she was unaware of the level of interest she has generated around the world because she ‘doesn’t watch the news from foreign media’ very often. Various tennis players, human rights organizations and celebrities have spoken out in support of the tennis star in recent weeks. The hashtags #FreedomForPengShuai and #WhereisPengShuai has dominated social media.

Claiming that her life has been ‘nothing special’ since the Post was made public, Peng didn’t directly address if she got in trouble with the Chinese authorities.

“First of all, I’d like to say that feelings, sports and politics are three very distinct things. My lovelife problems, my personal life must not be mingled with sports and politics,” she said. “And sports must not be politicized because when that happens, most of the time it means turning one’s back on the Olympic spirit and it goes against the will of the sporting world and the athletes.”

Peng revealed that she held a meeting with IOC president Thomas Bach on Saturday. She says the two had a ‘nice discussion and exchange’ about topics mainly related to the Olympic movement. There was no mention as to if Bach made any inquiries about her welfare or discussed her previous allegations. Although Peng did say she would like to visit the Olympic museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

As for her future in tennis, the former world No.1 doubles star indicated that she will be retiring from the WTA Tour due to ongoing knee problems but hopes to one day play in senior events.

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Miami Open Tournament Director Fined For Breaching Betting Rules

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The tournament director of the prestigious Miami Open has been fined more than $50,000 and issued with a suspended ban for violating rules relating to betting sponsorship. 

 

James Blake, who is also a former professional player, has been hit with a financial penalty of $56,250 with a further suspended fine of $131,250 and a suspended ban of 18 months by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA). Due to his status as a tournament director, the American is considered as a ‘covered person’ who must abide by the sports rules regarding betting. An official press release confirmed that the 44-year-old fully cooperated with the investigation and did not contest the charge against him. 

The ITIA has ruled that Blake’s violation was unintentional and he will not be suspended unless he breaks another rule within the 18-month period, which started on February 9th this year. According to the official rulebook, it is stated that “No Covered Person shall directly or indirectly, facilitate, encourage and/or promote Tennis Betting (‘Facilitation’).”

“Across our members – the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams – the rules prohibit accredited individuals from having commercial relationships with betting companies,’ Karen Moorhouse, CEO of the ITIA, said in a statement. 
“This case is more a matter of perception, rather than corruption. The rules apply to players, coaches, officials and accredited tournament staff – who all have the ability to influence results or have access to inside information. 
“We urge anyone in the sport who is unclear or is considering commercial deals like this to get in touch with us to seek guidance.”  

Blake has been head of the Miami Open since 2018. A mixed Tour-level event that is classed as a Masters 1000 for men and as a WTA 1000 for women. As a player, he reached a ranking high of No.4 and won 10 ATP titles. He is also a three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist. 

There is yet to be any public comment from Blake regarding his fine. The Miami Open will get underway next month. 

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Iga Swiatek avenges her Wimbledon defeat against Elina Svitolina to reach the quarter final in Dubai

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World number 1 Iga Swiatek beat two-time former world champion Elina Svitolina 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 24 minutes in the third round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Swiatek has extended her winning streak to six straight victories in the Middle East after claiming the Doha title last year. 

 

Swiatek won seven consecutive games from 1-1 in the first set. The Polish player won a tighter second set that featured five consecutive breaks to reach the quarter finals in Dubai for the second consecutive year. 

Swiatek earned leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the second set before breaking serve to take a 5-4 lead. She served out the win after saving a break point for 5-5.

Swiatek avenged her defeat to Svitolina, who beat her Polish opponent in three sets in the quarter finals at Wimbledon last year. Svitolina has returned from a back injury she sustained at last January’s Australian Open. 

Swiatek now leads 2-1 in her three head-to-head matches against Svitolina. The four-time Grand Slam champion has won 25 of her last 26 matches dating back to a fourth-round defeat to Jelena Ostapenko. She has extended her winning streak to 13 matches against top-20 players.

Swiatek will face either Zheng Qinwen or Anastasia Potapova in the quarter final. 

Swiatek finished runner-up in the final in Dubai last year. 

“I really wanted to improve my focus compared to yesterday. I am happy I did not lose my focus and I remembered what I have to do and it worked. I was a little bit calmer than I was yesterday”, said Swiatek. 

Coco Gauff came back from one set down to beat Karolina Pliskova 2-6 6-4 6-3 reaching her second consecutive quarter final in Dubai. Gauff stopped Pliskova’s 11 match winning streak. The Czech player claimed her first title since 2020 at Cluj Napoca and reached the semifinal in Doha before withdrawing ahead of her scheduled semifinal match against Swiatek due to injury. 

Gauff has won 23 of her last 24 matches players ranked outside of the top 20. The US player has reached the quarter finals or better in three of her last four appearances in Dubai, where she advanced to the semifinal last year. The young US player has reached her third quarter final in 2024 after winnin her second title in Auckland and reaching her first Australian Open semifinal. 

Gauff saved two break points in the first game of the third set before earning a decisive break with a forehand down the line to take a 5-3 lead. Pliskova earned two break points in the final game, but Gauff pulled back to deuce with her strong serves. The US player sealed the win on her second match point with her unreturned serve. 

Gauff set up a quarter final match against this year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Anna Kalinskaya, who beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 7-5 in 93 minutes. 

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Andy Murray wins his first match of the 2024 season in Doha

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Andy Murray beat Alexandre Muller 6-1 7-5 to clinch his first win of the 2024 season at the Exxon Mobil Open in Doha. Murray won two Doha titles in 2008 and 2009 and reached three finals in 2007, 2017 and 2023.

 

Murray converted three of his five break points he earned. 

Murray came back from 0-40 down to break serve on Muller’s first service game. The British player held serve to open up a 3-0 lead, but he asked for a medical time-out due to a knee issue. The double Olympic spoke to the physiotherapist on court, explaining that he had been feeling pain in the area for a few days and had received for a cyst on his meniscus the day before Tuesday’s match. 

Nevertheless, Murray returned on court and did not convert two break points. The Scotsman earned his second break and held serve to seal the opening set in 46 minutes. 

Murray did not convert break points in the fourth game of the second set. Both players held on their service games before Murray earned a break with another winner to take a 4-3 lead. Muller broke straight back to draw level to 4-4. Both players on serve in the next four games en route to the tie-break. 

Muller earned the first mini-break with a drop-shot to take a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but Murray pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5. Murray won the next two points and sealed the win with a backhand return. 

“Obviously the past few months have been really tough on the court for me. I have not won many matches and lost a lot of close ones as well and it was getting tight at the end there as well, so obviously I am delighted to get through”, said Murray. 

Murray set up a second round match against Jakub Mensik, who upset Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in just his eighth tour-level match to clinch his first win against a top 30 player. 

Mensik came back from a break down twice en route to winning the tie-break of the first set 7-3 with four mini-breaks. The 18-year-old Czech player earned a decisive break in the first game of the second set before sealing the win after 93 minutes on his first match point. Mensik won 70% of his first service points. 

Mensik, who is the youngest player in the top 200 in the ATP Ranking, reached the third round at last year’s US Open and beat Denis Shapovalov as a qualifier on his Australian Open debut last January. 

Mensik will face either Andy Murray or Alexandre Muller. 

“I just tried to play my best. It’s a crazy opportunity to play an ATP 250 here in Doha, so I reached the second round and I will do my best to show this performance in the second round”, said Mensik. 

Christopher O’Connell beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-4 to improve his head-to-head lead to 2-0. O’Connell broke twice in the second and seventh game to take a 5-2 lead. Struff pulled one break back in the eighth game from 3-5 but O’Connell closed out the first set 6-4 on his first set point. O’Connell broke serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 and sealed the win on his third match point. 

O’Connell set up a second round match against world number 46 Emil Ruusuvuori, who beat Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 in one hour and 47 minutes. Both players went on serve with no break points en route to tie-break. Ruusuvuori, who reached the quarter final in Rotterdam last week, earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. Ruusuvuori earned his first break of the match in the opening game and saved four break points to hold serve at deuce in the second game. Zeppieri broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ruusuovori converted his second break point in the 11th game and sealed the second set 7-5 on his first match point. 

Gael Monfils beat Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-1 7-6 (11-9). Monfils broke twice in the second and fourth games to win the first set 6-1. Van de Zandschulp broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Monfils broke back in the ninth game. Both players held on serve in the next games en route to a tie-break. Monfils earned three match points at 6-3 in the tie-break, but Van de Zandschulp  won three consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Both players traded mini-breaks to draw level to 8-8. Monfils won two consecutive points to win the tie-break 11-9 on his fourth match point. 

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