Tennis world’s third-highest ranking player has been missing for days and the suspension of her Chinese rival Shuai Peng before the US Open court time period has led to suggestions that no email exists
The ATP’s men’s world No3, China’s Peng Shuai, is missing.
The reason is unclear and speculation is rife. According to Chinese media Peng had a cyst removed from her spine and was set to start chemotherapy, which she could not deal with given that she was pregnant. Alternatively, her agent told the BBC the cyst is related to her battle with a type of cancer last year.
Whatever the reason, she failed to show for an event in Antalya, Turkey, at the start of September, prompting her compatriot Peng – who beat her in the US Open – to warn that her pregnant status could leave her vulnerable.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) then followed suit in China and suspended Peng for allegedly violating its court time agreement, even though there are no emails.
On Tuesday, the Shanghai Tennis Association (STA) admitted it had missed Peng’s court time after her contract expired on 10 September but was forced to reinstate her after she missed 10 days of competition.
This followed a “widespread outcry” that her suspension violated the ITF court time agreement.
The STA’s director of competition, Chan Hailong, admitted for the first time the STA had been clueless about Peng’s whereabouts.
“We sent over all the documents that she’s on court time but none of those were signed in red. It was pink. I should ask what kind of pink it was,” he said.
The ITF confirmed the court time agreement, which caps top-ranked players’ involvement at tournaments at 27 days, had been breached but refused to say by whom, or if Peng had acted alone, claiming it was an internal matter.
Despite her absence, Peng has still managed to gain a grand slam victory in New York and has moved from 471 to 144 in the world rankings.
The court time rule was introduced by the ITF following a court time rule row in 2003 involving 16-year-old Amelie Mauresmo.
Calls for Peng to be reinstated appear to have gone unheeded, with the tennis association maintaining it will allow her to compete but “in a very reduced schedule”.