WTA 'on the right side of history' in Peng Shuai case, says Billie Jean King

NEW YORK, Dec 1 (Reuters) - 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 CEO Steve Simon made the announcement on Wednesday, citing concerns over Peng, a former double's 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 Simon said the WTA had "serious doubts" that the three-time Olympian was safe. read more

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

Tennis - WTA Tour Finals - Panamerican Tennis Center, Guadalajara, Mexico - November 17, 2021 Former tennis champion Billie Jean King stands near the trophy after Spain's Garbine Muguruza won her final match against Estonia's Anett Kontaveit REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

"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."

A number of prominent tennis figures weighed in, with 18-time Grand Slam winner Martina Navratilova tweeting: "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."

Former world number one Andy Roddick tweeted that the move made him "proud to be in the tennis orbit," while prominent coach and former player Darren Cahill applauded the WTA's "care, concern and leadership."

American Tennys Sandgren called on his fellow men's players to act, tweeting, "Yo men, let's back the ladies up huh? We gonna sit this one out or what?"

Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, Manasi Pathak in Bangalore and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles Editing by Toby Davis

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