Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal speak out over Peng Shuai situation

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·Sports Editor
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Peng Shuai, pictured here at a restaurant in Beijing.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have spoken out amid the Peng Shuai situation. Image: Twitter/Getty

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal added their voices to the growing concern for Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai over the weekend before she conducted a video call with IOC boss Thomas Bach.

Peng conducted a 30-minute call with the International Olympic Committee chief on Sunday, with Bach reporting that Peng told him she is "safe and well".

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Concerns about Peng's well-being have been growing by the day after she seemingly went missing for two weeks following explosive claims of sexual assault against a former top politician.

"She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time," the IOC said in a statement.

"That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. 

"Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."

Earlier on Sunday, Peng was seen attending a junior tennis tournament in Beijing, marking her first public appearance since she made her accusations against former vice premier Zhang Gaoli.

The former World No.1 doubles player alleged earlier this month that Gaoli, now in his 70s, forced her into sex during an on-off relationship spanning several years.

Following a global outcry, Chinese state media reporters have released a flurry of photos and videos purporting to show all is well with Peng.

However the footage hasn't done much to quell concerns, with WTA boss Steve Simon expressing his desire to speak with Peng directly.

On Saturday, tennis greats Federer and Nadal expressed their concerns.

“She’s one of our tennis champions, a former World No.1, and clearly it’s concerning,” Federer told Sky Italia

“I hope she’s safe. The tennis family sticks together and I’ve always told my children as well that the tennis family is my second family. 

"I’ve been on tour for 20-25 years and I love the tour, I love the people that are there, (they) are special, the players as well, and she’s one of them."

Nadal told French newspaper L'Equipe: "The most important thing is to find out whether she is OK. 

"All of us in the tennis family hope to see her back with us soon."

Peng Shuai, pictured here in action at the Wuhan Open in 2019.
Peng Shuai in action at the Wuhan Open in 2019. (Photo by Wang He/Getty Images)

Chinese state media release photos and videos of Peng Shuai

A video from the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals event on Sunday, tweeted by Global Times newspaper editor Hu Xijin, shows Peng standing in a stadium among a group of guests whose names are announced to a smattering of applause.

A Global Times reporter tweeted another video showing Peng signing autographs for children at what appears to be the same stadium before posing for photos with them.

Hu also posted two other videos on Saturday, the first showing Peng walking into a restaurant, and the second of a maskless Peng sitting at a table chatting with people over a meal.

Hu tweeted in English that the second video shows "Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time".

Peng appears relaxed in the footage, which appears to have been taken with a mobile phone, but those with her are at pains to emphasise the date in somewhat stilted comments.

On the restaurant videos, WTA boss Simon said he was glad to see the images but "it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference".

"This video alone is insufficient," he said in a statement.

"I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."

with agencies

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