Top WTA players consider leaving China amid dispute over pay

Bautista Agut of Spain returns the ball to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia during their WTA Finals Japan singles semi-final match at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo October 17, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN – Tags: SPORT WTA) ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.

The WTA has suspended its events in China because of a dispute over player pay, reportedly led by world No.17 Peng Shuai.

The 23-year-old from Shuai’s native China has not played in China since April because she claimed her 8,500 yuan (£813) payout for a scheduled April 17 match against Australian Ashleigh Barty was insufficient. The Shenzhen Open, which is a new tournament in the WTA calendar, is due to start this weekend.

Peng cited her “zero-sum life” for stating that she could not attend a match in China because of “social issues.”

According to local media, Peng told China’s state broadcaster CCTV that she was part of a club which seemed to have “high expectations” but as yet failed to provide her with even the minimum wages stipulated by Chinese law.

Reuters reports that Peng is only one of several top WTA players who may also be considering leaving China.

In July this year, tennis stars like Ivanovic and Gavrilova said that the pay gap between men and women was going to “unleash a revolution”.

In May, American Lauren Davis called on WTA players to consider joining together and boycotting China due to the country’s recent work on technology used in its sports stadiums.

“In China right now the National Stadium is called ‘Peace Park’, and it’s a nod to ‘peaceful coexistence’, the campaign slogan of the ruling Communist Party,” she wrote. “The world’s focus is on this, when China is trying to try and make its mark on sport and sportsmanship.

“However, the problem with China right now and the anti-corruption fight they’re going on is that there are human rights violations, and women’s rights violations going on. The WTA had its headquarters just a few miles away from this, and a lot of women work here. Now they want to try and be the voices of conscience for the entire world, but it’s not that easy to do. And the police and officials in China get very sensitive and get upset if women speak about these issues.”

In 2016, the WTA attempted to make an extra $3 million available in prize money, but that still left the men earning three times more than their female counterparts, despite the men playing twice as many matches and four more weeks.

Despite China’s rise to prominence in the sport, women have fared better than men. Former world No.1 Li Na made the finals four times, while Garbine Muguruza became world No.1 in 2016.

In the men’s game, Novak Djokovic has won 13 grand slam titles, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have each won 17.

Read the full story at The Daily Telegraph.

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