The chairman of the WTA has spoken for the first time about the apparent disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai from the tour, the tournament in Beijing that she was scheduled to play in this week.
Simon Long said in a statement Monday that the Chinese tennis federation told tournament officials the athlete “had taken a vacation and would return with the official team of the Chinese tennis federation”.
The WTA and ATP have been unable to confirm that the 34-year-old, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has played in China since Thursday.
The WTA will move forward with the tournament in Beijing, although the Chinese are reportedly thinking of taking the tournament elsewhere until they can figure out what is going on with Peng.
The tour is a partnership of the WTA and the men’s ATP tour.
“When the WTA is told a player has been advised to take leave from the tour, we receive immediate notification,” Long said. “In this case, the player herself told the tournament that she was going on a relaxing holiday but didn’t contact the WTA for this time frame. This is a protocol that we follow when a player goes on leave of absence.”
“We are concerned for the safety of Ms. Peng and we hope that she is safe. But if she hasn’t been seen or heard from, we are not optimistic that she is still in China.”
Long added: “The Chinese Tennis Federation contacted us in order to make sure she had not been detained by authorities, but again, we have no confirmation that this is the case. The official in charge of the WTA’s communications on the Asia and Oceania region, James Mahoney, is currently working with tournament officials in Beijing to try to find out where Ms. Peng is.”
Peng, who won the doubles title at Wimbledon in 2014 with her partner Sania Mirza, has been a fixture on the WTA circuit for more than a decade, making her breakthrough at the 2005 French Open.
According to a statement from the WTA, Peng was due to play in the singles tournament and the doubles event. Her status for the singles was up in the air, although the French Open player’s new entry list showed she had pulled out of Roland Garros, but no reason was given.
The tournament confirmed Peng had left the tournament Friday.
“We have tried several times via email and phone calls to reach out to Ms. Peng, but we have not been successful,” Long said. “We have not received an explanation as to why she left the tournament. We also requested her phone number and email from the Chinese Tennis Federation, but haven’t heard anything back.”