'Devastated' Serena Williams hopes missing tennis star Peng Shuai is found quickly

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Serena Williams has spoken out about the well-being of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts became unknown two weeks after the athlete had accused a former high-ranking Chinese government official of sexual assault.

Williams took to social media Thursday to express her concern

"I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai," Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, wrote on Twitter. "I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time."

Williams' tweet was accompanied by the trending hashtag "#whereispengshuai" and a photo of the 35-year-old world champion tennis player.

In a now-deleted post, Shuai detailed her encounters with Vice Premiere Zhang Gaoli and accused Gaoli of coercing her into sex at his home three years ago. The social media account on Weibo – China's Twitter-like platform, on which the post was made – has since been disabled.

After the release of a statement made by the World Tennis Association demanding that China respond to Shuai's accusations, a number of prominent athletes have shown their support for finding her.

"Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK," tennis star Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter Tuesday. "I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

Thirty-nine time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King also took to Twitter with her concerns: "Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated."

Shuai is one of China's most successful tennis stars, having won two major doubles titles – at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. Shuai has also reached the US Open semifinals in singles and has earned 25 titles on tour.

Contact Analis Bailey at aabailey@usatoday.com or on Twitter @analisbailey.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Serena Williams speaks out for missing tennis star Peng Shuai