The return of WTA tournaments to China in 2023 will hinge on a resolution to the Peng Shuai issue, with the governing body of the women’s game telling Reuters on Wednesday it had still not personally met with the Chinese former doubles world No 1 personally since she briefly disappeared last year.
Peng accused Zhang Gaoli, the former Chinese vice-premier, of sexual assault in 2021 in a post on social media which was soon removed from the country’s internet. She later said the post was “an enormous misunderstanding” and that she was retiring from tennis.
Peng’s post caused an international outcry over her safety and led the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend tournaments in China – a decision expected to cost the women’s tour hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcasting and sponsorship.
A provisional 2023 tournament calendar released late last year listed the WTA’s schedule up to September, but there was no clarity on events to be held in China.
“There has not been any change in the WTA position on a return to China and we have only confirmed our 2023 calendar through the US Open,” the WTA said in a statement. “A return to the region will require a resolution to the Peng situation in which she took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader.
“As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss her situation.”
The WTA said it had received confirmation Peng was safe and comfortable but was yet to meet with her. “We continue to hold firm on our position and our thoughts remain with Peng,” the statement added. “The WTA continues to work towards a resolution. While we have always indicated we are hopeful we will be in a position to again operate WTA events in the region, we will not compromise our founding principles in order to do so.”