Peng Jian suffers missing for China’s tennis superstar

By Miriam Falco, CNN Yi Peng ― one of China’s most popular professional tennis players ― went missing Friday in a dramatic twist to the wild fortunes of the star who has been missing…

Peng Jian suffers missing for China's tennis superstar

By Miriam Falco, CNN

Yi Peng ― one of China’s most popular professional tennis players ― went missing Friday in a dramatic twist to the wild fortunes of the star who has been missing from social media for nearly two weeks.

Peng, who was inducted into the WTA Hall of Fame last year, had been on a social media blackout since September 26 after seemingly losing her temper at a Cincinnati court, an internal tennis document seen by CNN shows.

Days later, her agent, Ronen Ferrero, emailed the WTA, accusing one of Peng’s partners of faking a facial injury in order to prevent the pair from playing a doubles match on court, adding that the situation had escalated out of control.

Ferrero said he was aware that Peng had been beaten, but insisted there was a “conspiracy” against his client.

“My client is a winner that is used to winning,” Ferrero said. “But there is a conspiracy, against her, and it has actually escalated to a point that today the meeting with authorities was necessary.”

But International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty, speaking to CNN on Sunday, questioned the timing of the email and said it had raised concerns among players and the federation.

“I know for a fact that the email was sent Friday and I don’t know what the timing was about,” he said. “If it was being sent because of scheduling reasons … then I think it only raises my concerns.”

Ferrero declined to comment on the email to the WTA.

Both Ferrero and his wife, also a senior executive with ITF, declined to comment when reached by CNN, as did a representative for the Tennis Integrity Unit.

In a statement, the ITF referred back to Haggerty’s statement and said it “plans to look into matters regarding Ms. Yi Peng” and its “commitment to the WTA’s code of conduct.”

Date of event unclear

Haggerty, a former grand slam player himself, is making his first public comments since questions were raised about the date of the court fight.

According to a copy of the WTA Court Protest Bulletin sent to all WTA players — which refers to Peng’s clash in Cincinnati — dated September 26, the collision that saw Peng lose her cool occurred at 8:20 p.m.

Peng received a warning during the match but was subsequently disqualified after confronting a line judge over a foot fault.

She has not been seen on social media since that day.

In addition to criticizing her partner’s use of facial injuries, Ferrero’s letter questioned some of the results. He said that Peng’s tennis coach had “reported the match to the ITF as a complete loss for him without seeing any of the matches (…) and then questioned the court referee, the line judge and at this point he stated the match itself was not even close as a single point difference.”

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Ferrero said the match was “the kind of thing that happens all the time.”

‘A totally different situation’

Haggerty told CNN on Sunday that it was “not at all” the case that Peng was disqualified from a match that should not have taken place.

“There’s a completely different situation than that,” he said. “You don’t say: ‘No, I don’t want to play because I don’t like the court I’m playing on.'”

A 20-year-old, Peng is a two-time Grand Slam champion and is ranked 16th in the world, a career high for the player from Shenzhen in southern China.

She has also been a star in the Asian media, frequently appearing on the local media in China and has a media empire of her own. She has also been one of China’s most vocal advocates for diversity in tennis, championing equal pay and ranking benefits for women players in the sport.

Peng married Britain’s Andy Murray, the world’s number one-ranked men’s tennis player, in 2015.

A 2011 profile of the couple noted that Peng’s media platform “came out of a desire to be closer to her family, a market in China that unlike almost all other countries does not support just one tennis player.”

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