Peng Shuai fired back at the WTA’s perceived leniency towards Serena Williams by ending her boycott of the grand slam event after the organisation’s response to her treatment at Wimbledon.
After top-ranked Williams quit at SW19, the WTA took the unprecedented step of terminating the world No2’s coaching ban and fined her $15,000 for ripping up a rules sheet she was handed out.
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But for the 2014 French Open semi-finalist Peng, who took her cue from Serena’s “You run the game the right way” statement, the incident took on a life of its own. She ended her boycott of the grand slam championships and a week later became the first Chinese player to enter a grand slam event for three years after the WTA’s chief executive Steve Simon wrote an open letter backing her stance and an official of the Chinese Tennis Association said she could take time out.
“I thought I was going to make a big statement by just not playing Wimbledon and then I thought, you know what, this game is good enough to judge me by myself,” Peng told the Guardian in an interview. “So I decided to go to Wimbledon to play because Wimbledon is good enough. The tournament and everyone there is good enough.”
When asked if the Wimbledon run has had a positive impact on Peng’s public image, the 32-year-old added: “I think it has. My power ranking went up quite a bit, too. That’s very important. I need to keep doing that because I play well when I play well. And I need to keep playing really, really, really well. I need to do that until Wimbledon 2018 to win Wimbledon.”
Prior to Wimbledon, Peng had never played in the first round of a grand slam tournament, but after ending her boycott she then reached the second round without dropping a set. She lost in three sets to Ayumi Morita of Japan and said: “After Wimbledon I wanted to play more. Now I see that I can do it. But the first tournament is the most important, then you build the game and I want to get confidence and build my game and win the next one.”
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Simon wrote that Serena was disqualified because the writing on the rule sheet showed the advice “is to take a drop shot off the top of the net”. He added: “I think some of our best rule-breakers … use their talent to find ways around the rules, to get around the rules. And if, in fact, it’s not the rule, we don’t get any sense from them that we need to change the rule.”
Peng said: “The WTA is the largest women’s tennis organisation in the world. They have huge influence. I think what they said means a lot. I feel that their official spokesperson, what he did, is helping me to understand why my coaches are not allowed in my matches.
“I think if Serena is allowed to get back on the court after the problems in Wimbledon, why not me?”