Tennis World Shocked By Shuai’s Disappearance

Elizabeth Wagner - 17 Nov 2021

Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has expressed feelings of shock at the disappearance of Chinese star Peng Shuai.

Shuai has not been heard from since her recent accusation of sexual assault directed at former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli. The accusation, which had been made on Chinese social media, has since been removed from the highly censored Chinese internet.

Peng’s accusation earlier this month marked the first time anybody at the highest ranks of China’s ruling Communist Party has been implicated as part of the #MeToo movement.

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Sympathy With Shuai’s Family

Speaking after his ATP finals opener win against Casper Ruud, Djokovic said while he did not have too much information about the story, having only heard about the disappearance of Shuai about a week prior, the incident had shocked him.

He said he could only imagine how her family must be feeling at this time, not knowing whether she was safe or in danger.

Commenting on the incident earlier on Monday, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said what concerned him the most was the uncertainty around what had actually happened to the former doubles world No. 1. He however added that he felt encouraged by a recent assurance received by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) that Shuai was in fact accounted for and not in harm’s way.

Pressure has in the meantime been mounting on Chinese authorities to clarify the status of the 35-year-old. This after the WTA insisted on Sunday that Shuai’s claims be properly investigated, and transparently and fully so.

While China has remained ominously quiet about Shuai, WTA chairman Steve Simon this week informed a prominent US news publication that the organisation has indeed been assured of the player’s safety.

No Retirement For Djokovic

During his commentary on Monday, Djokovic also sought to clear up confusion regarding his post-match comments delivered at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. At the time speaking to local fans in Italian, Djokovic had apparently unwittingly created the misconception that he planned on retiring in two years’ time.

But while some in the audience had understood the message this way, Djokovic had been quick to correct the erroneous assumption this week. The Serb said he did not anticipate retirement to be around the corner and that he had many years remaining in his legs, head, and heart.

Djokovic said for as long as this continues to be the case, he plans on keeping on competing. He said tennis is a sport he loves with all his heart, and that it motivates as well as challenges him. 

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