Peng Shuai: WTA does not believe Chinese tennis star benefited from ‘walkover’

Peng Shuai became the first Chinese woman to win a WTA title when she beat Barbora Strycova in the Malaysian Open in April

WTA chief Stacy Allaster says Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai will not be rewarded for winning last week’s Australian Open if the match with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is replayed.

Peng, 33, had won a three-set match when play was halted by rain on 18 January in the All England Club, England.

The delay is widely believed to have been the reason Peng escaped with a victory, and Allaster has since revealed the WTA has ruled against that theory.

“If the decision that was made was wrong, it was not correct,” she said.

“But the ball girl was on the court for seven minutes. We need to do our due diligence.”

Following a six-month investigation, the All England Club apologised on Monday for giving Peng – now ranked number five in the world – a “significant advantage”, in court, and agreed with Peng that there were “grave errors of judgement and missed opportunities” in the way she was treated.

An administrative error meant the match was classified as a walkover – the loss of a wildcard at the time – despite the WTA confirming shortly before the final that Peng had played her best tennis of the tournament and finished as the runner-up, meaning she was automatically awarded a wildcard to play in the Aegon Classic.

“It was not nearly enough,” Allaster said of the CCTV footage used to support the new WTA’s decision.

“The committee has looked at the findings of the CCTV footage. It’s probably not conclusive but I think the case to which she’s been referred was in a different position to the actions that took place to deny her that wildcard.”

Peng, who remains the only Chinese player to have reached a grand slam final, won the Malaysian Open in April and had to overcome a year-long injury lay-off last season to achieve that success.

A statement from Peng on Monday said she was “in no doubt about [the] ruling” but that the China Tennis Association still had the authority to decide whether to appeal.

The China Tennis Association has had to vacate its status with the WTA in the wake of the scandal, but Allaster says it remains a member of the global governing body.

“The case is behind us. It’s a new era now,” she added.

“We apologise to the whole of the women’s tour if this happened. It’ll be a part of our culture moving forward, to never let something like this happen again.”

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