The allegations that Peng Shuai, an ex-Wimbledon doubles champ, was sexually assaulted and abused by a top Chinese politician (who is now 40 years old) are rocking tennis.

  • Peng Shuai, ex-Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai made allegations of sexual abuse 
  • Peng (35 years old) claimed she was forced to have sex in public with Zhang Gaoli, politician 
  • Zhang, at 75 years old, was China’s Senior Vice Premier from 2008 to 2018.
  • Within 30 minutes, her message was removed from Weibo in China, which is heavily monitored by Chinese authorities.

After Peng Shuai, a former Wimbledon doubles champion, demanded that an investigation be conducted into allegations of sexual abuse against tennis players Peng Shuai has caused a major crisis in the key relationships between China and Tennis.

WTA Tour made a statement about Sunday night to express concern over the situation of the 35-year old, who was awarded the All England Club title last year and has also reached the top 20 in singles.

On Chinese social media platform Weibo, she said last week that Zhang Gaoli was the one who forced her to have sex. He is 40 years her senior and until 2018 served as the government’s senior vice premier.

Tennis is in crisis after calls for an investigation into sexual abuse allegations by Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai has called for an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in tennis.

Peng, 35, is a famous Chinese tennis player and former winner of the Wimbledon doubles title

Peng (35), is an internationally renowned Chinese tennis player who was a former Wimbledon doubles champion

Although she acknowledged their past affair dating back to 2011, she said that it had been rekindled in 2018, and she was forced to have sex in his home.

Within 30 minutes, the message was removed from a Chinese-controlled platform. Since then internet references to one of the nation’s best-known tennis players have been largely erased.

The first such charge against a senior official in China has been brought. Zhang married to Zhang still needs to answer.

Peng has not played on tour since March, and amid claims yesterday that she had ‘vanished’, WTA chief executive Steve Simon said: ‘We’ve received confirmation from several sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association, that she is safe and not under any physical threat.’

Peng alleged that senior politician Zhang Gaoli, 40 years her senior, sexually assaulted her

Peng claimed that Zhang Gaoli, a senior politician, had sexually assaulted Peng.

Simon delivered a firm statement on Sunday, saying: ‘The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern. The accusation that a former Chinese leader committed sexual assault against her must be taken seriously. We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.’

Simon later suggested to the New York Times that the WTA would be prepared to withdraw events from China if their demands are not met: ‘We want to see a full investigation on this. If that isn’t the case and if they are not cooperative, then we’ll have to make some decisions. But we’re not going to back off this position,’ he said.

‘In this situation, the WTA issue is about potential sexual assault of one of our players. That is something that simply can’t be compromised.

The married Zhang (above) served as the Chinese government's senior Vice Premier until 2018

Zhang married (above), was the Chinese government’s highest Vice Premier up to 2018.

‘If at the end of the day, we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what it came to.’

In recent years the women’s tour has become increasingly reliant on the Chinese market to host events, having become the sport’s biggest growth area since the emergence of former US and French Open champion Li Na.

All events held in Asia in autumn were cancelled by the Covid crisis. However, 10 WTA Tours were held in China for 2019.