China’s erratic sporting scene has its ups and downs, but one thing it tends to agree on is the massive power of its female players. Indeed, Chinese women haven’t lost to a female opponent since 2008, so it seemed that the country’s talented tennis players – especially Peng Shuai – were riding a bit of a slingshot into the Chinese nation’s heart last year. Peng became the world’s top-ranked player for the first time last December, beating Serena Williams’ American rival to win the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China. But it was only a matter of time before things got more complicated for Peng, who is married to the player Goran Ivanisevic.
During a press conference in Chengdu, China in March, the married couple, which has been together for six years, were asked a series of questions about Peng’s status with Ivanisevic, as well as the controversy that had arisen over their private issues. Once again, they hit back at her critics. Peng recently announced that she would be quitting the Chinese national team in order to focus on tennis, as it was not the right time for her career in the wake of the break-up with Ivanisevic.
“It was the early morning at first, but I kept hearing my name but not really hearing from him,” she said. “Then we talked, I said, ‘This is the right time for me. I’m going to give it to you.’” The intense couple were then asked what Ivanisevic had said to him, but these problems were exposed as so much more than silly gaffes.
Goran called our support for him an act of “support from above”. I wish that was true, but it isn’t. My husband, Goran, is not my friend. Don’t send us letters, don’t discuss me. Do you have a husband? He’s not my friend. #NotFired #ButWeAllDisagree — Peng Shuai (@pattenguff) March 14, 2018
The question posed was straightforward. Will Ivanisevic, who has taken charge of Peng’s career in her absence, still be allowed to represent China? Backing her husband and positioning herself in front of a lot of people who may or may not support her campaign against the silencing of Chinese female athletes, Peng said: “I wish that was true, but it isn’t. My husband, Goran, is not my friend. Do you have a husband? He’s not my friend.
Li Na, the 2010 Grand Slam champion and compatriot of Peng, supported the effort to fight back against the pressure of politicization from other players. “For a lot of people in China, there are issues,” she said, according to BBC Sport. “I hope this issue can become an opportunity.”
The Chinese tennis federation had earlier confirmed that Ivanisevic would be on the 2018 WTA Tour list of 70 players to be honored for their achievements. It was unclear what the ramifications of her decision to part ways with the federation would be, but it certainly won’t be good for Peng.
Read the full story at the Telegraph.
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