Turin [Italy], November 20 (ANI): World number one Novak Djokovic has said he supports Women's Tennis Association's (WTA) suggestion of not continuing its activities in China, following tennis player Peng Shuai's questionable disappearance.
Peng, 35, a doubles champion at Wimbledon and the French Open, accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault according to screenshots of a since-deleted Weibo post dated November 2. Notably, Peng has not been heard from since alleging against the Chinese politician.
After defeating Cameron Norrie at the ATP Finals, Djokovic said the whole tennis community should come out in support of Peng and make sure she is safe.
"Someone told me there was some kind of statement that went out there that she was kept I don't know if it was a prison, she was contained. I don't know. She didn't really have communication with everybody," Tennis.com quoted Djokovic as saying after the game.
"I hope this is true, that she's found, that she's healthy, that everything is fine. If this is the case, okay, at least the worst is avoided.
"I support the statement of WTA as an organization and also their president absolutely. This can obviously happen to anybody. I mean, this is not common thing, obviously. We don't hear about it. I don't know if it ever has happened. But life is like that. Anybody can get lost. I don't know, something can happen to you," he pointed out.
"The whole community, tennis community, needs to back her up and her family, make sure that she's safe and sound because if you would have tournaments on the Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little bit strange. I do understand why WTA has taken a stance like that," Djokovic added.
ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi also said the safety of the Chinese player is of "immediate concern" and clarity is required on the matter.
"Developments in recent days in the case of Peng Shuai are deeply unsettling. this issue is bigger than tennis, as shown by the outpouring of concern within and beyond our sport," said Gaudenzi in a statement.
"Her safety is our most immediate concern and clarity is required on the situation. the need for verifiable direct communication with her is vital," he added.
In the email, Peng had purportedly claimed that her earlier accusations of sexual abuse are "not true" and says she is "resting at home and everything is fine."
Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Chairman and CEO, Steve Simon in a statement then said that he had a "hard time believing" the email was written by Peng.
Peng has won many doubles titles, including at Wimbledon in 2013. Zhang was a member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee until 2017. (ANI)