Women’s Tennis Association chairman Steve Simon has branded a video appearing to show missing Chinese player Peng Shuai in a restaurant as “insufficient”.
Peng, the former Wimbledon doubles champion, is seen smiling in the apparently new footage released by Chinese state media journalist Hu Xijin.
The 35-year-old is seen in the Twitter video sitting at a restaurant alongside a man and two other women.
A conversation unfolds involving the man and a woman discussing Peng’s upcoming schedule of tennis tournaments.
But firstly they clarify what the current date is.
“Tomorrow is the 20th of November right?” the man asks.
The woman then says it’s actually the 21st of November before the man continues: “We had two matches in the past. But we were not happy with the results.
“The match tomorrow is the conclusion of the nine matches in the past three months.
“The end of November is the end of the year. We must try our best.”
Peng does not speak for the duration of the video.
A second video published by the same journalist appears to show Peng walking into a restaurant.
Concern for the welfare of Peng, who has not been heard from directly for more than a fortnight, this week even reached the United Nations and the White House.
The former world No.1 in doubles seemingly disappeared after making allegations of sexual assault against a former vice-premier in China on the social media site Weibo.
Simon has threatened to pull the WTA out of the lucrative Chinese part of its tour next season unless it is proved that Peng is safe, and he reiterated that its relationship with China is “at a crossroads”.
“I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing,” Simon said.
“While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.
“As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.
“I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
Earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declared US President Joe Biden’s administration wanted China to “provide independent, verifiable proof” of Peng’s safety and whereabouts.
Roger Federer, Wimbledon organisers and the Athletes Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) became the latest to voice their concerns for Peng.
“She’s one of our tennis champions, a former world No. 1, and clearly it’s concerning. I hope she’s safe,” he said.
“The tennis family sticks together and I’ve always told my children as well that the tennis family is my second family. I’ve been on tour for 20-25 years and I love the tour, I love the people that are there, (they) are special, the players as well, and she’s one of them.”
A Wimbledon statement said: “We are united with the rest of tennis in the need to understand that Peng Shuai is safe. We have been working in support of the WTA’s efforts to establish her safety through our relationships behind the scenes.
“Along with the global tennis community, we would like Peng Shuai to know that her wellbeing is of the utmost importance to us, and we will continue to work to gain clarity on her safety.”
The IOC athletes commission said: “Together with the worldwide athlete community, the IOC Athletes Commission is very concerned about the situation of three-time Olympian Peng.”
Aus Open boss speaks out
Meanwhile, Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is seeking assurances of the well-being of Peng.
She has been a popular visitor to Melbourne Park, twice reaching the round of 16, while she’s a two-time grand slam doubles winner at Wimbledon and the French Open.
She reached the final four of the US Open in 2014 in her best major singles result.
“Everyone is aware of the Peng Shuai situation, the primary thing for us is to make sure she is safe,” Tiley said at the Australian Open launch on Saturday.
“We have utilised our channels, we have been working behind the scenes to find out and get more clarity about her safety.
“Our position is very clear: we want to know that she is safe and then secondly we want her to know as a community, not only a global tennis community, but as a community here in Australia we will do everything we can to support her wellbeing.
“It is a matter we are building more clarity on as time goes on and we’re using every possible channel that we can to assure her safety.”
The Women’s Tennis Association has threatened to withdraw all tournaments from China if her location is not soon revealed.