The ITF is reportedly making a U-turn over its stance on tournaments in China, and will not hold any events in the country next year.
A number of you have contacted us for an update about ITF tennis tournaments in China in light of Chinese player Peng Shuai's situation. We wanted to share the following information with you: No men's or women's ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments are scheduled to be played in China in 2022. Leaked ITF email to players
On Tuesday, it released a statement on the ongoing situation regarding Peng Shuai and tennis in China, saying: “Since Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai first posted her allegations, we have been active in our involvement to gain assurances of her safety and wellbeing, via the channels that are available to us.
“The ITF has publicly stated its stand in support of women’s rights and that the allegations made by Peng Shuai must be addressed.
“Our primary concern continues to be to establish and ensure Peng Shuai’s safety and well-being.
“The ITF is supporting all efforts, publicly and behind the scenes, to that end.
“Our actions are focussed on seeking these assurances and to act in her best interests.
“It is important to note that:
- The ITF is distinct from other tennis bodies in that the vast majority of our activity in China is focussed at the grassroots and development of the game.
- The ITF’s mission and purpose is the development of tennis and the next generation of players, both recreational and professional.
- No pro tennis men’s or women’s ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments have been hosted in China since January 2020 and there are currently none scheduled for 2022.
“We support the activities of all our member national associations to grow the game of tennis and provide opportunities and a pathway for the best junior talent in each country including China.
“We will also continue our efforts to support those who remain concerned about Peng Shuai through all means available to us.”
Now, as a result of continuing international concern over the safety of Peng, who largely disappeared from the public eye after accusing former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault, the ITF seemingly is having a change of heart.
Peng, a former doubles World No 1, has barely been seen since posting the lengthy accusation online on 2 November, which was removed from the platform within half an hour.
Although emails claiming to be from Peng have been received by the WTA, CEO Steve Simon believes the communications are ‘100% orchestrated’ and has suspended WTA Tour events in China.
“Chinese officials have been provided the opportunity to cease this censorship, verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault in a full, fair and transparent manner,” Simon said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way.”
Following the WTA’s strong stance, players called for the men’s ATP Tour and the ITF to follow suit, prompting ITF President David Haggerty to state that the ITF did not want to ‘punish a billion people’ by suspending tournaments in China.
According to Reuters, a source has now said: “No men’s or women’s ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments are scheduled to be played in China in 2022.”
The ITF has reportedly communicated with players that events in China have been scrapped, with Ben Rothenberg posting a leaked email that says: “A number of you have contacted us for an update about ITF tennis tournaments in China in light of Chinese player Peng Shuai’s situation.
“We wanted to share the following information with you: No men’s or women’s ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments are scheduled to be played in China in 2022.”
British No 4 Liam Broady confirmed the ITF’s communication, tweeting: “No @ITFTennis tournaments scheduled in China in 2022, standing in support of women’s rights. @atptour what now?”
World No 26 Reilly Opelka also criticised the ATP, tweeting: “Everyone is out… but ATP. Pretty embarrassing, but not surprising.”