Naomi Osaka expresses concern over missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai

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China's Peng Shuai reacts after a point against Canada's Eugenie Bouchard during their women's singles match on day two of the Australian Open in 2021 - AFP
China's Peng Shuai reacts after a point against Canada's Eugenie Bouchard during their women's singles match on day two of the Australian Open in 2021 - AFP

Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka is concerned over the wherabouts of fellow tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not been heard from since making allegations of sexual assault against a former Chinese vice premier.

Peng, one of China's biggest sport stars, accused retired Chinese Communist Party official, Zhang Gaoli, of abuse on Nov 2.

On Monday Novak Djokovic spoke of his “shock” at the disappearance of Peng Shuai as the ATP backed the Women's Tennis Association call that her claims of sexual assault be investigated.

"I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused," Osaka said on Twitter. "Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok.

"I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way. #whereispengshuai."

WTA chief Steve Simon told the New York Times on Sunday that no one at the Tour has talked directly to Peng but that he had received assurances from the Chinese Tennis Association that she was safe "and not under any physical threat".

China's State Council Information office and the Chinese Tennis Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment when the WTA issued its statement.

Peng was the first Chinese player to top the world rankings when she was doubles No 1 in 2014. She won doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014 and was a semi-finalist in singles at the US Open in 2014.

Zhang, now 75, was a vice premier between 2013 and 2018 and served on the Politburo Standing Committee between 2012 and 2017.

Djokovic’s intervention came after the ATP joined the WTA in calling for a “full, fair and transparent investigation” – although stopping short of threatening to boycott staging events in China.

The men’s tour had been under pressure to follow the lead of its women’s counterpart, which warned on Sunday it could pull its tournaments from the country unless there was such an inquiry.

Earlier this week Julian Knight MP, the chairman of parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, told Telegraph Sport: “I applaud the stance the WTA is taking in this respect.

“These allegations need to be fully investigated and this individual needs to be produced.

“China has a very dark history when it comes to human rights and this gives the whole sporting world more than pause for thought.”

He added: “Frankly, all avenues should be explored in terms of applying pressure on China to ensure this young lady is out in public once again.

“I would not leave anything off the table and the WTA’s stance is one that I thoroughly support.”