Peng Shuai: Shenzhen Open becomes first casualty of WTA's withdrawal from China

Shenzhen Open

The Women's Tennis Association has released its schedule for the first half of the 2022 tour, but has not featured the Shenzhen Open.

The Guangdong province usually plays host to the WTA 250 tournament, which takes place on the opening week of the calendar.

However, amid growing concerns over the welfare of Peng Shuai, the organisation recently announced it had suspended all upcoming tournaments in China.

The Shenzhen Open is the first casualty of the WTA's decision and more dates in the second half of the Tour are also expected to be withdrawn. China usually hosts a number of tournaments during September and October.

Worries started to build around the whereabouts and wellbeing of Peng last month when she disappeared from the public eye after making public sexual assault allegations against China’s former Vice Premier, Zhang Gaoli.

Peng, who is a two-time doubles champion at the Shenzhen Open, posted the claims on social media platform Weibo. Shortly after, the site removed her post and blocked users from searching for her and even the term 'tennis'.

Peng Shuai

After three weeks of silence, huge red flags were raised within the tennis community. Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka got involved in the social media campaign #WhereIsPengShuai, and WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon has spoken out numerous times.

Simon has been extremely vocal on the situation and has stressed concerns are still high over whether the Chinese tennis star is safe and well.

Peng Shuai

Following the widespread demand for answers, Peng suddenly returned to the public eye. She was filmed at social events, including a tennis tournament in Beijing, and she also appeared on a video call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

However, Simon has deemed this "insufficient evidence" of Peng being safe and free from censorship, and he has continued to try and get into contact with the 35-year-old.

Simon recently exchanged emails with Peng but believes "it was clear her responses were influenced by others," a statement from the WTA read.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev is one of the latest tennis stars to speak out on the current situation.

Daniil Medvedev

The world number two praised the WTA for its decision to pull all Tour events in China, and admitted he feels "nobody would be comfortable" competing in the Asian nation right now.

"What we all want is to see that Peng is fine, which we do not know 100 percent," Medvedev continued. 

In the absence of the Shenzhen Open, five tournaments will be played across Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, ahead of the 2022 Australian Open on January 17th. The first competition of the WTA Tour will get underway on January 3rd in Adelaide.

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