Chinese Tennis star Peng Shuai has been making headlines after she disappeared before accusing a former Chinese high official of sexual assault. Through a lengthy message on her verified Weibo microblog account on 2 November 2021, former world no. 1 tennis star came forward to accuse Zhang Gaoli, a former senior Chinese vice premier and high-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), of sexual assault. She accused Zhang of sexual assault three years earlier and had an on-and-off consensual relationship. The high-ranking profile sexual assault accusation drew attention to the #MeToo movement in China. Following her accusation, Shuai went blind on social media, reportedly censored from all platforms. The WTA, ATP all associations showed their direct concerns over the serious matter. Several tennis stars also voiced concern for Peng. Here are 10 things about Peng Shuai.
Her uncle introduced her to tennis
Peng Shuai started playing tennis at the early age of eight. Her uncle played tennis and was a famous tennis coach in China. Her uncle, the only family member who plays tennis, introduced her to the game. Her father is a police officer.
She underwent heart surgery at a young age
Peng Shuai underwent heart surgery at the age of 13. She was admitted to a hospital for heart surgery to repair a defect. She explained her situation in the “Impossible is Nothing” campaign from Adidas.
She is the first Chinese tennis player to rank world no. 1
Peng Shuai is one of the most successful Chinese tennis players. She is the first Chinese player (male or female, in singles or doubles) to reach world No. 1. She reached world No. 1 in doubles in 2014 after she continued her doubles success from 2013. She won Pattaya Open and Qatar Open in doubles to reach world No. 1. She had won five double’s titles in 2013 including Wimbledon, and WTA Championships.
She peaked at No. 14 in singles in 2011.
She is the first Chinese to win the WTA Tour Championships
Peng Shuai had huge success as a doubles player in 2013. With her long-time childhood friend, Hsieh Su-Wei, they won the Wimbledon in doubles in 2013. With the win, she became the first Chinese player to win the WTA Tour Championships. She also became the fifth Chinese player to win a Grand Slam title. She had won five doubles titles in 2013.
She reached her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal at the 2014 US Open.
She had her worst run in 2015
Peng Shuai had her worst season in 2015. It was due to back and waist injuries she sustained. She lost several tournaments either in the first or the second round. She failed to register a single-match win in doubles in 2015.
Her best performance of the season was the fourth round of the Australian Open. She lost to the eventual runner-up, Maria Sharapova.
She eventually announced to end her 2015 season due to injuries.
She won her first WTA singles title in 2016
Peng Shuai won her first WTA singles title, the Tianjin Open in 2016. She received a wildcard after Zhang Shuai withdrew in the beginning round. She defeated Danka Kovinic in the semifinal and 2014 champion Alison Riske in the final to win her first-ever WTA singles title. She had also won the doubles title with partner Christina McHale.
She was banned from playing tennis in 2018
Peng Shuai was banned from playing tennis for six months in August 2018 for “coercing her partner”. The investigation found out that she attempted to change her doubles partner by offering the possibility of a financial reward in return for her partner agreeing to withdraw after the deadline had passed; at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships. She was also fined $10,000. Three months from her 6-months ban and $5000 fine was later suspended.
Her coach, Bertrand Perret was also banned for three months.
She accused former senior Chinese vice premier of sexual assault
Peng Shuai came forward to accuse Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Gaoli is the former senior Chinese vice premier and high-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Shuai had an on-and-off consensual relationship with Gaoli and the incident occurred in 2019. It was the first time a member of the top echelon of the CCP has faced public allegations of sexual misconduct.
Shuai came forward with the accusations via a lengthy message on her verified Weibo microblog account on 2 November 2021.
She was censored from all media
After Peng Shuai came forward with her sexual assault accusations, she went blind on social media. She did not communicate on social media. She was reportedly censored on all Chinese social media and news outlets. No one knew about her whereabouts. Her disappearance drew concerns from all over the world.
WTA Called on Chinese authorities to investigate Peng’s allegations
Following Peng Shuai’s disappearance, WTA called on Chinese authorities to investigate Peng’s allegations and called for an end to official state censorship on the subject. ATP issued a statement showing their concern on Shuai’s subject and also supported WTA’s investigation. Amnesty International and UN Human Rights also called on China to provide proof of her whereabouts and wellbeing and investigate the matter.
Several tennis stars, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and Billie Jean King voiced their concern for Peng.