For the past few hours, a worldwide wave of support has been sweeping through social networks and the media in an attempt to have reassuring news from Peng Shuai. The disappearance of the 35-year-old player, untraceable since November 2 after the revelation of a sex scandal involving a former leader of the Chinese regime, has aroused many reactions to the highest political levels.
The threats to boycott the Winter Games, which are to be held in Beijing from February 4 to 20, have never seemed so real, as have the tennis world to ban an entire state. But who is this champion, star recognized in her country, around whom all questions revolve?
Heart defect and departure to the United States
Born in 1986 in Xiangtan, central Hunan province, into a family whose father is a police officer, Peng Shuai was introduced to tennis at the age of 8 by her uncle Zhang Fan, a former coach. At 12, despite her family’s fears, she insists on having an operation to correct a heart defect “because I love tennis so much”, will be justified later the player. The medics give him little chance to play again, but Peng Shuai hangs on and will make his resilience one of his strengths on the court.
Three years later, she continued training alone in the United States, equipped with a simple electronic translation device, before settling down at 18 in a Florida academy in Delray Beach, unheard of until then for a Chinese player.
Major titles that propel her to the rank of star in her country
By winning the doubles at Wimbledon in 2013, then Roland-Garros the following year with Taiwanese Hsieh Su-wei, Peng Shuai became a star in his country. Also in 2014, she remained world number one in doubles for 20 weeks and reached the zenith of her singles career by reaching the semi-final at the US Open, where she was forced to retire against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki. , exhausted and evacuated on a wheelchair.
In total, she won twenty-three WTA doubles and two singles titles in her career, for 14th place in the world at her best, pocketing nearly $ 10 million in prize money. At 35, Peng Shuai is now ranked 192nd player in the world but has not played a match on the professional circuit since March 7, 2020. A Fed Cup meeting where she represented … her country, China.
Six-month suspension for “intimidation and attempted corruption”
In 2018, she received a six-month suspension and a $ 10,000 fine for trying to buy her partner twice, Alison Van Uytvanck, so that she withdraws from the Wimbledon tournament so that Peng can play the London Major with Sania Mirza.
Peng Shuai is accused of having recourse “to intimidation and attempted corruption” towards his partner. The two women will however replay together thereafter in doubles.
Revelation of a sex scandal that shakes the regime
On November 2, 2021, Peng Shuai accused on the social network Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) a former vice-prime minister, Zhang Gaoli, of having forced him to have sex three years earlier. She specifies that she then became the mistress of the former leader, until an argument a few days earlier.
The message was censored a few minutes after being broadcast, however, time for thousands of Chinese to read it and circulate screenshots, which in turn were promptly censored.
I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) November 18, 2021
Since these accusations, we remain without news of the champion, to the point of arousing the concern of many stars of world tennis, from the dean Chris Evert to number one, Novak Djokovic, through Naomi Osaka. Chinese official media released a message attributed to the player on Twitter last Wednesday, claiming that her accusations against Zhang Gaoli “are false”.
>> China: four questions on the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai who accuses a former executive of rape
Steve Simon, the boss of the WTA, the association that manages the women’s professional tennis circuit, said he doubted the authenticity of the message and asked Beijing for “independent and verifiable proof” that Peng Shuai is safe. A demand also developed by the United States, France and the UN. On Saturday, November 20, pictures showing a smiling Peng Shuai appeared on social networks, without the authenticity of these could not be verified.