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Mystery of where Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai is remains a worrying question one year on from scandal

WHERE IS Peng Shuai?

It’s an important question that has been asked countless times over the past 12 months – and one which went viral on social media.

Peng Shuai won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title in 2013
Her absence from public view has prompted fans and players to call for more information about her safety

In truth, only a handful of westerners really know where she is – and the ones that do are refusing to say publicly.

It was on November 2, 2021, when Shuai – the 2013 Wimbledon doubles champion – posted a message on social media platform Weibo alleging she had been sexually assaulted by retired Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

That was quickly deleted by Chinese censors and Peng would later retract those claims in interviews with a pro-Beijing Singapore newspaper and then L’Equipe, the only non-Chinese publications to speak and met her.

Nonetheless the post shocked the sporting community and it prompted stars like Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka to raise concerns about her safety.

What she was alleging was highly provocative and damaging for the Chinese government and it has been feared all along that her movement and life is being monitored and controlled by the state.

Questions were asked before the start of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in February but IOC President Thomas Bach shamefully paraded her round the venues in an attempt to reassure everyone that everything was okay.

The IOC were the first sports body to make contact with Peng but everyone felt this was a PR stunt to placate international pressure on the hosts before those Olympics.

The IOC told SunSport their Athletes’ Commission “has been in regular contact with Peng” since those controversial Games and she wants to visit the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

IOC President Thomas Bach met with Peng during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

Peng was seen in Beijing earlier this year but there have been no sightings since then

But outside of a small group of Olympics chiefs, her exact location remains a mystery.

They added: “A visit to Europe continues to be discussed, as was agreed in Beijing. The timing of the planned visit will depend on the Covid situation in China.”

Since then, the ITF President David Haggerty surprised everyone in August by revealing he speaks with Peng via email and wants to meet her “face-to-face”.

The ITF say they have been “reassured by Peng Shuai that she is well” and will continue to “seek assurances of her ongoing safety” – and yet when pressed for more information, the tennis bosses stubbornly refuse to give details on her location.

Clearly those in the top levels of tennis administration are not talking with each because it is understood the WTA – the governing body of women’s tennis – have not had any meaningful contact with Peng since this episode began a year ago.

The WTA decided to stop hosting future events in China and this hardline stance was universally applauded.

Yet chairman and CEO Steve Simon has opened the doors to returning there once Covid restrictions are eased.

The IOC say Peng is safe and fine but refuse to disclose her whereabouts

Simon said: “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.

“We continue to hold firm on our position and our thoughts remain with Peng Shuai.

“The WTA continues to work towards a resolution and are hopeful we will be in a position to operate events in the region in 2023 and beyond but will not compromise our founding principles in order to do so.”

Perhaps it is inevitable that tennis will return to China at some point and by then, few may have forgotten to ask about Peng’s whereabouts.

As ever, it seems money always talks in global sport and Wimbledon, it should be noted, have no qualms working with a Chinese telecoms sponsor despite Peng being on their doubles honours board.

Where is Peng Shuai? The sad truth is, we just don’t know…

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