Tennis star Peng Shuai can’t keep playing in China until she qualifies for the WTA Finals

Peng Shuai’s ranking has dropped through the years. She’s ranked only 170th in the world, meaning she will have to qualify for all the major tournaments and face the odd draw.

Then, this happened. Two weeks ago, at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., she was in the second round and playing in front of thousands of spectators, including her parents and two sisters. She lost in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, to Irina Falconi, who’s ranked 52nd in the world.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

After the match, Peng was given a $500 fine by the Citi Open for slow play.

About a week later, she received a letter from the WTA informing her of a series of tournaments she would be no longer be allowed to compete in. It seems the reason is a breakdown in communication, as Peng was never told she wouldn’t be able to play in China.

So this means, for the next four months, Peng won’t be able to play in Beijing, where she’s a veteran player and has won four times. She also won a tournament earlier this year in Japan.

Now, she might just have to travel halfway around the world to play in the WTA Finals in Singapore, an event she has won twice. The qualifying tournament begins on Sept. 10.

The WTA points Peng has earned from these tournaments are safe, but the WTA Tour doesn’t recommend anyone play competitive tennis for more than four months after a major event.

“The WTA regrets that this has happened and we apologize to Peng and the fans who were expecting to see her play in China,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said in a statement. “This was communicated to Peng at the time of the Citi Open when she was originally informed she would not be allowed to compete in China.”

It’s not often you see a major event change plans after an athlete plays a match. But the good news is that Peng will still be able to return to the competition after she’s been given a chance to keep playing in the tour’s four majors.

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