WTA set to announce long-awaited decision on return to China

Australian Open
Tennis - Australian Open - Women's Singles Final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 29, 2022 Activist Max Mok wearing a t-shirt reading "Where is Peng Shuai?" speaks to a spectator outside Melbourne Park ahead of the women's singles final REUTERS/Morgan Sette

March 31 (Reuters) - The WTA Tour's long-awaited decision on its return to China is "forthcoming" and the tournament schedule for the rest of the year is due in the coming weeks, the governing body of women's tennis told Reuters on Friday.

The WTA had said in January the resumption of its operations in the country would hinge on a resolution to the Peng Shuai issue, with its officials not having met the Chinese former doubles world number one in person.

Peng had accused a senior Chinese government official of sexual assault in 2021 in a post on social media that was soon removed from the country's internet. She later denied having made the accusation.

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

A provisional 2023 tournament calendar released late last year listed events up to September but there was no clarity on events to be held in China.

"More discussion needs to take place but as we have reflected, a decision will be forthcoming," a WTA spokesperson told Reuters via email.

"We will be providing an update and calendar in the coming weeks."

The WTA had called for a formal investigation into Peng's allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity to meet with her privately and discuss her situation.

The governing body said earlier this year it had received confirmation Peng was safe and comfortable, but added it would not compromise its founding principles to operate tournaments in China again.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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