Tennis: Women's events to return to China after boycott over Peng Shuai allegations

Peng Shuai.
Peng Shuai. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Women's Tennis Association will resume operations in China this year, it said on Friday (NZ time) citing the "extraordinary price" on players as reason for reversing a decision taken over concerns for the safety of former doubles No. 1 Peng Shuai.

The WTA had received widespread praise for suspending its tournaments in the country after Peng said in a now deleted 2021 social media post that a senior former Chinese government official had sexually assaulted her.

Peng then briefly disappeared from public view and later denied making the accusation, sparking fears for her safety.

"After 16 months of suspended tennis competition in China and sustained efforts at achieving our original requests, the situation has shown no sign of changing," the governing body of women's tennis said in a statement.

"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.

"For these reasons, the WTA is lifting its suspension of the operation of tournaments in the People's Republic of China and will resume tournaments in China this September."

In January, the WTA said it was confident Peng was "safe and comfortable" in Beijing, but still wanted a private meeting with the now 37-year-old before returning to the region, adding it would not compromise on its founding principles.

Peng's post caused an international outcry over her safety and the WTA's decision to suspend events in China was expected to have cost the tour hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcasting and sponsorship.

She last made a public appearance at the Beijing Winter Olympics last year and conducted an interview with French publication L'Equipe.

"We have not been able to achieve everything we set out for, but we have been in touch with people close to Peng and are assured she is living safely with her family in Beijing," the WTA said.

"We also have received assurances that WTA players and staff operating in China will be safe and protected while in the country. The WTA takes this commitment seriously and will hold all parties responsible."