Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty: Tennis stars desperate for more information on Peng Shuai

A number of tennis stars have called for more information on the wellbeing of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai

A number of tennis stars have called for more information on the wellbeing of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Peng’s welfare has been a much-discussed topic at the ongoing Australian Open, with Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Victoria Azarenka all speaking out about the player.

The former world number one doubles player, made sexual assault allegations against China’s former Vice Premier, Zhang Gaoli, at the start of November.

In a post on Weibo, the 35-year-old claimed she was coerced into having sex with Zhang, which began an on-off consensual relationship with the former Politburo Standing Committee member.

Peng’s post was deleted around 30 minutes after it was published, and she subsequently disappeared from public view for three weeks.

Despite appearing in a steady stream of photos and videos released by Chinese government-controlled media, the WTA said in December it still had “significant concerns” about Peng’s “well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion”.

Peng Shuai made sexual assault allegations in November

This has been echoed by Azarenka, who sits on the WTA Player Council. The two-time Grand Slam winner revealed she had not been able to get in contact with Peng.

“There hasn’t been that much development in terms of contact with Peng Shuai even though from our side we will continue to make any and all efforts to make sure that she is safe, she feels comfortable,” she said.

“Hopefully we will get to hear from her personally at some point. I think that’s the goal, the main goal right now.”

Four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka, who voiced her concern over Peng in November, has also called for more information about her whereabouts.

“I feel like if I was in her position, I would want people to care for me too,” she said.

“It’s one of those things. Like I imagine myself in her shoes, and in that way, it’s a little bit scary. But you want to lend your voice and you want people to ask the questions.”

Victoria Azarenka is among the tennis players to comment on the welfare of Peng Shuai

The WTA has been praised for its reaction to the situation, having withdrawn from all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, until Peng’s safety is guaranteed.

Barty, world number one and favourite to win the Australian Open, praised the tennis community for its response.

“I think the tennis community has come together,” she said. “Obviously we’re all looking out for her safety. We all hope that she’s well.

“We hope that she’s doing OK. Hopefully it’s not too long until we see her back out here.”

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