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Teen star Gauff says ‘questions’ remain over Peng assault case

Coco Gauff said Friday there were “still a lot of questions” about the status of Peng Shuai, as international women’s tennis returns to Beijing for the first time since the Chinese star made sexual assault allegations against a top government official.

Peng, a former doubles champion, vanished from public view for weeks in late 2021 after she wrote on social media that she had been “forced” into sex with former vice premier Zhang Gaoli.

She later reappeared and denied making the claim, but the episode prompted the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to pull its tournaments out of China pending an independent investigation.

The global governing body reversed its stance this year and is currently holding the China Open in Beijing.

Asked by AFP about Peng’s case, Gauff said it “was a concerning situation when it happened and there’s still a lot of questions raised about that”.

“Regarding my safety here… the hospitality that I have received so far has been really great,” the US Open champion said at a press briefing.

“I’ve felt not the slightest bit of insecurity regarding (my own safety)… but obviously, I wish (Peng) the best and I hope that she’s doing well,” the 19-year-old said.

The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing scrapped its years-long, isolationist zero-Covid policy.

The WTA’s boycott was seen as largely symbolic as China’s pandemic policy barred most international sport.

The organisation said in April it would reinstate its China tournaments even though Peng’s situation “has shown no sign of changing”.

“We have concluded we will never fully secure those goals, and it will be our players and tournaments who ultimately will be paying an extraordinary price for their sacrifices,” the organisation said at the time.

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