Ash Barty's telling response to 'sinister' question about Peng Shuai

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Ash Barty, pictured here being asked about the Peng Shuai situation at the Australian Open.
Ash Barty was asked about the Peng Shuai situation at the Australian Open. Image: Australian Open/Getty

Peng Shuai has been a hot topic of discussion at the Australian Open, with players asked to offer their thoughts on the saga during post-match press conferences.

The Chinese tennis player alleged on social media in November that the country's former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex during a long-term on-off relationship.

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The post was subsequently deleted and her claims censored, then she disappeared from public view only to reappear three weeks later.

With concerns for Peng's safety lingering around the tennis world, players have been asked for their thoughts at the Australian Open.

Victoria Azarenka, a long-time member of the WTA Players' Council, said efforts were still being made to ensure Peng was safe.

"There hasn't been that much development in terms of contact with Peng Shuai even though from our side we will continue to make any and all efforts to make sure that she is safe, she feels comfortable," she said on Wednesday.

"Hopefully we will get to hear from her personally at some point. I think that's the goal, the main goal right now."

After her win in the second round on Wednesday, World No.1 Ash Barty said: "Obviously we're all looking out for her safety. We all hope that she's well.

"We hope that she's doing okay. Hopefully it's not too long until we see her back out here."

Peng Shuai, pictured here in action at the Australian Open in 2020.
Peng Shuai in action at the Australian Open in 2020. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

When asked by a reporter whether she was concerned that there was something 'sinister' going on with Peng, Barty said: “I’ve got no idea. Without the information, I can’t answer that question."

Nick Kyrgios said “obviously” something wasn’t right but also admitted that he didn't have enough information.

“Obviously if that’s still something that’s ongoing it needs to be found out and kind of, I guess, we need more awareness about it. We can’t forget about her,” Kyrgios said.

“We have to use our platforms as athletes. I think we’re obligated to do that, we’re obligated to speak up and, you know, get to the root of what’s happening and why it’s happening.”

Naomi Osaka 'not sure' about Peng Shuai situation

Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka said she hadn't heard anything about Peng for weeks.

“I’m not sure if that’s concerning or not,” she said.

“But I think the WTA, the whole organisation, they handled it really well. I’m really proud of them.

“I feel like it’s a situation where we need more information, which is definitely really hard.

"Kind of, I think everyone is waiting.”

Last month the Women's Tennis Association moved to suspend all tournaments in China given its "serious doubts" about Peng's safety.

Azarenka revealed plans are afoot to find replacements for the axed events.

"I think right now, it's a process. The process is obviously not public at the moment because there is no certainties or any decisions or substitutions that are in play," she said.

"The process is there. As soon as we have more concrete information, it will definitely be shared.

"Right now it's still up in the air, but there is work behind the scenes for sure."

with agencies

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