Men’s world No 1 Novak Djokovic has described the recent disappearance of former Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai as ‘terrible ’ after she ‘vanished’ last week.
Peng rose to fame in 2013, after she secured the Wimbledon doubles title alongside Taiwanese partner Hsieh Su-wei, before the pair picked up a second Grand Slam title a year later at the French Open.
Despite being a well-recognised star within the sport, Peng went missing after accusing the former vice premier of China Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex with him. Zhang has not responded to the claim.
Peng, 35, made the claim via an upload on Chinese social media site Weibo, outlining the abuse she received by the senior politician, however the post was quickly removed, as was all of her recent content.
Following the disappearance the WTA released an initial statement expressing their concern, as chief executive Steve Simon said: “The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern.”
He continued: “Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“In all societies, the behaviour she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored.”
Many of tennis’ biggest names have yet to speak out on the issue, however arguably the biggest – Djokovic – has offered his thoughts, describing Peng's disappearance as ‘terrible’ and ‘shocking’.
Speaking in Turin, where Djokovic is competing in the season-ending ATP Finals, he said: “It's shocking and terrible that she's missing."
He also revealed that Peng was a player he had come across, and met on a number of occasions whilst on tour.
Djokovic added: “More so that it's someone I have seen on the tour quite a few times in the previous years. I hope she will be found."
The ATP gave a positive update on the 36-year-old’s welfare on Monday, as chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said he was ‘encouraged’ by assurances he had received from the WTA that the tennis star was ‘safe and accounted for’.
Gaudenzi said: “There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our tennis community. We have been deeply concerned by the uncertainty surrounding the immediate safety and whereabouts of WTA player Peng Shuai.”
“We are encouraged by the recent assurances received by WTA that she is safe and accounted for and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“Separately, we stand in full support of WTA’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into allegations of sexual assault carried out against Peng Shuai."
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