Despite the persistent veil of mystery and uncertainty surrounding the Peng Shuai case, the WTA is lifting its suspension of tournament operation in China and will stage events in this Asian country starting September 2023. This announcement was expected, as the ITF has also recently allowed the resumption of tournaments in China.
In December 2021, the WTA made a groundbreaking decision to leave the lucrative Chinese market, due to concerns over the well-being of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player who accused a former high-ranking Chinese government official of sexual assault. Almost a year and a half has passed and we haven’t seen much progress — the WTA received multiple confirmations of Peng’s safety, but they are yet to meet her in person.
The time has now come for the WTA to move on and return to China, despite the unsatisfactory situation concerning the Peng case:
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 WTA’s press release further states:
While we do not regret our decision on the suspension, the WTA and its members feel that now is the time to return to our mission in China. We are hopeful that by returning more progress can be made.
Reading comments on social media, people largely have the impression that the suspension had less to do with Peng and more to do with the fact that COVID-19 restrictions would limit the WTA’s ability to stage tournaments in China anyway. The WTA reiterates that women’s voices must be heard when speaking out:
Peng cannot be forgotten through this process. It is important that our renewed engagement in China provides continued safety for Peng and all the women athletes who will benefit from our return to competition and the opportunities tennis provides.