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Can the WTA Tour prosper if ties with China are severed because of Peng Shuai? | Peng Shuai




ANAmid global concern for tennis player Peng Shuai, Tennis Australia placed a job ad demonstrating China’s importance to a sport that is currently at loggerheads. The successful candidate for the role of social content producer, China Channels, will help tell the story of the Australian Open to our growing audience in China through January.

The new hire will be busy, with Tennis Australia confirming on Thursday that the January calendar will feature 17 tournaments in three states ahead of the big one in Melbourne. With the Australian Open billed as the Asia-Pacific grand slam, social media involvement has played a role in building the tournament’s profile in China.

The event has partnered with Chinese premium spirits brand Guojiao 1573 and Ganten, which will provide bottled water for tournaments held during the summer swing. Both are great sponsorships. The Guojiao 1573 partnership, in particular, is considered in a similar multimillion-dollar-a-year empire to that of the Australian Opens’ title sponsor, Kia.

Hosting the 2021 Australian Open under conditions imposed to protect Victorians from Covid-19 proved incredibly expensive. This put significant economic pressure on Tennis Australia, making partnerships with companies such as their Chinese sponsors crucial from an economic perspective.

The challenge for the various bodies in the tennis family, and for the wider sporting world, is balancing their financial partnerships with human rights issues. What happens if a fellow tennis organization such as the WTA Tour, which is currently facing a test scenario involving Peng in China, is in danger or under pressure?

While the current situation concerns China, tennis and other sports have links with other countries that also have questionable human rights records. It is not an isolated case. The WTA Tour, led by chairman and chief executive Steve Simon, has made clear the organization’s stance on China during an extremely challenging month for tennis.

Simon has stressed that the WTA Tour will leave the country, and its huge investment in the sport, unless it can be satisfied with Peng’s health and well-being. A post on social media on Nov. 2 by the former world doubles No. 1 has raised concerns for her safety, which continue to reverberate around the world.

She was not heard from for fourteen days after the post, which was quickly deleted. Although she’s made several public appearances recently, they seemed choreographed and didn’t allay all concerns.

Were absolutely willing to terminate our business and resolve all the complications associated with it, Simon told CNN this month.

It is estimated that a move to cut ties with China could cost the WTA Tour, which is heavily dependent on the nation, more than a billion dollars in revenue. What happens next in this particularly dire situation is uncertain. It’s one that can happen over the years.

Can the WTA Tour thrive if ties with China are cut? Will the organization be frozen by China even if it is ultimately satisfied with Peng’s security? Is it possible to be satisfied even in that respect? And what will happen to the other tennis players from China who are currently on tour, or who want to be?

There are currently six Chinese women ranked in the top 200. They are likely hoping to match the success of dual grand slam champion Li Na or, it may be said, win a Wimbledon or Roland Garros doubles title like Peng did.

Shortly before the worrisome situation regarding Peng emerged, Simon was officially discussing his hopes for the return of the WTA Tours to China in 2022. The WTA Tour Finals, which were held in Mexico this year due to Covid-19 , have been outsourced to Shenzhen until 2030.

Our support in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China, has a rich history of growth and talent, Simon told the Tennis Majors website in October.

In a French tennis magazine in September, WTA President Micky Lawler lamented the impact on the women’s tour caused by the loss of tournaments in China due to Covid-19.

Covid was not foreseeable. Please name me a person who would have said no to China? said Lawler. This was an opportunity for all of women’s sport, with unprecedented prize money records. We were proud when we announced it and still are.

There is optimism that it will be possible to succeed in new markets, some of which were put to the test this year, although dividends will almost certainly be much lower if the situation worsens.

As the world closely monitors the situation and expresses support and concern for Peng, it appears that business with China will continue for other organizations. The Beijing Winter Olympics in February continue, although the prospect of a diplomatic boycott was floated in Australia on Thursday, as in other countries.

There is no suggestion that the ATP Tour will not host major tournaments in October when sporting events are allowed to take place in China after the pandemic. And the Asia-Pacific grand slam, otherwise known as the Australian Open, will mark the start of another uncertain year for tennis.




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