Peng Shuai Australian Open 2015

‘Pathetic and cowardly’ – Martina Navratilova blasts Australian Open for banning Peng Shuai protests

Martina Navratilova has criticised the Australian Open for banning clothing and banners regarding Peng Shuai’s whereabouts and she has questioned why they are “letting China dictate their own slam.”

Towards the end of the first week of the Australian Open, Melbourne Park spectators were requested by security guards to remove or cover T-shirts and banners which read ‘where is Peng Shuai?’

Tennis Australia released a video statement where they said this was done on the grounds that any “clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political” are prohibited. Although, in the video Tennis Australia did say “Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern.”

In November last year, former French Open and Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai accused former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into a sexual relationship.

Such allegations caused global concern which was then exacerbated when Peng publicly disappeared for three weeks.

Whilst the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established video contact with Peng and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) had email correspondence with the Chinese star, neither of these means of communication satisfied the WTA.

As a result of China’s failure and refusal to cooperate with requests for a “full, fair and transparent investigation,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon decided to withdraw all events from China, including the prestigious WTA Finals.

The latest update to the situation came when Peng was interviewed by a pro-Beijing news outlet and retracted her initial allegations.

18-time Grand Slam titlist Navratilova first Tweeted about the incidents, saying “that’s just pathetic. The WTA stands pretty much alone on this!!! #WhereisPengShuai”

She then spoke on the Tennis Channel to discuss the matter further. Navratilova said “sport has always been on the forefront of social issues, pushing them forward, and we are going backwards I feel … I find it really, really cowardly.

“This is not a political statement, this is a human rights statement. And chances are Peng Shuai may be playing here but, she couldn’t get out of the country? Anyway, I think they’re wrong on this.

“The WTA has been so strong on this issue … and the players, really taking a chance on their pocket book. The ATP was pretty weak on this. The IOC, well we know where they are.

“And just really capitulating on this issue from the Aussies, letting China dictate what they do at their own slam. For their own player, a player who has played there before. I just find this really weak.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.