WTA’s decision to suspend tournaments in China due to Peng Shuai concerns backed by tennis figures, including Billie Jean King

Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) founder Billie Jean King said the organisation was on “the right side of history” after it suspended tournaments in China due to concerns over the treatment of Peng Shuai.

WTA chief executive Steve Simon made the announcement on Wednesday, citing concerns over Ms Peng, a former women’s doubles world number one, after she posted a message on social media alleging that China’s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.

Her whereabouts became a matter of international concern following a nearly three-week public absence, and Mr Simon said the WTA had “serious doubts” that the three-time Olympian was safe.

“I applaud Steve Simon and the WTA leadership for taking a strong stand on defending human rights in China and around the world,” said Ms King, a 12-time Grand Slam winner and pioneer for women’s sport.

“The WTA has chosen to be on the right side of history in defending the rights of our players. This is yet another reason why women’s tennis is the leader in women’s sports.”

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Another great of women’s tennis, Martina Navratilova, sounded a similar note to Ms King in a post on social media, also urging Olympics chiefs to get involved.

“This is a brave stance by Steve Simon and the WTA where we put principle above $ and stand up for women everywhere and particularly for Peng Shuai. Now — what say you, @IOC ?!? #IOC – so far I can barely hear you!!! #WhereisPengShuai,” Navratilova tweeted.

A number of other prominent tennis figures weighed in, with former world number one Andy Roddick tweeting that he was “proud to be in the tennis orbit”.

“There are a lot of organizations who can afford to do something like this a lot more than the WTA can,” he wrote. “Respect.”

France’s Alize Cornet tweeted: “What a leader.”

American Tennys Sandgren said he was “beyond proud” of the WTA and called on his fellow male competitors to act.

“Yo men, let’s back the ladies up huh? We gonna sit this one out or what?”

Reuters/ABC

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