WTA ‘deeply concerned’ by tennis player Peng Shuai’s exit

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

Following the news of popular Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai’s 6-5, 6-3 loss to Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix on Monday in Stuttgart, the Women’s Tennis Association remains “deeply concerned” about the progress of the sport in China.

Peng, a 27-year-old three-time Grand Slam semifinalist and one of China’s biggest tennis stars, cried after the defeat and called for an end to corruption in the Chinese tennis establishment.

“What concerns us all the most is that more and more young players are throwing in the towel early or never getting the chance to showcase their talent,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said in a statement.

Calls for action

A former top 100 player, Peng has won seven WTA singles titles since turning professional in 2006, including the 2014 Australian Open, the French Open and the WTA Championship.

She had been one of the great hopes to emerge from her country since Li Na lost her top-ranked status in 2013.

Li Na (R) and Peng Shuai, players from the same nation and both famous for their eye-catching doubles outfits, pose at a press conference in 2011. Credit: Huang Shao/EPA

Peng’s continued success was all the more remarkable given she is just 1.80 meters tall — a foot shorter than Li, whose 1.80 meters gave her a further boost in her teenage years.

The WTA has been in contact with the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA) to request an explanation about the match, the statement said.

“Unfortunately the CTA has failed to provide a full explanation as to why an established player like Peng was sent out to play an unseeded player in a tournament which has a low ranking on the WTA Tour,” Simon added.

Peng sought to brush off the criticism by mentioning that women’s tennis had indeed been marred by allegations of corruption in the past.

“Since 2006 we have made many discoveries and fought hard to make anti-corruption campaigns public,” Peng wrote on her Weibo account, China’s Twitter equivalent.

“But whether in China or other places, corruption is part of the culture so people have to take a stand.”

Communist undertones

Her impact has been global. She was the first Chinese player to top the International Tennis Federation’s list of WTA career rankings.

Peng has also regularly been photographed in dazzling outfits by top Chinese designer Vivienne Westwood, who often uses Chinese colors and female faces in her campaigns.

A 2014 Westwood advertisement for her London-based Vivienne Westwood Underwear line featured prominent female singer Beijing Capital and drew criticism from bloggers.

The storyline was the alleged under-age performance of the Beijing Capital song on “China Idol” a competition China created for local youngsters.

Another campaign — this time for contemporary design brand Artefact — saw Peng in a beaded bejeweled dress and jeweled leggings in the country’s capital.

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