Ex-tennis player Peng Shuai accused of racketeering, spyware in email exchange

Written by Staff Writer

The game of tennis again faces another possible corruption scandal after photos emerged of retired player Peng Shuai posted online in which she appears to be exchanging emails with someone claiming to be a suspicious betting syndicate in Britain.

In the images posted by Belgian paper Het Laatste Nieuws — which also did not publish any of the details of the alleged email exchanges — a large collection of recent photographs of one of China’s greatest singles players were reportedly swapped for the alleged emails.

The apparent episode has received widespread coverage in several Chinese media outlets and newspapers.

“Tennis victim of corrupt gambling syndicate?” asked the People’s Daily on Sunday. “Her tennis alligator game has left its mark on history,” added China National Radio.

Peng, a 29-year-old former top-10 player, retired from the professional circuit in August 2016, after losing in the first round of Wimbledon to Melanie Oudin.

Since her retirement Peng has been involved in controversy, the most recent of which was posted to social media this week following the news of the alleged email exchanges.

“At the very first moment, I was very relieved to be through all of these (furious and disappointed) supporters who were shouting at me to retire,” Peng told the Associated Press in an interview following her 2016 Wimbledon defeat.

“The whole world just wrote us for what we were doing. And I thought, ‘You know what? I think I need to answer them.’ “

Peng’s interview comes ahead of the Tennis Integrity Unit’s annual review of the year’s biggest sports betting-related scandals — including the 2015 BNP Paribas Masters — which will be held in London on November 17.

China Open latest betting scandal

Earlier this month, the world’s top-ranked female doubles player, Carla Suarez Navarro, withdrew from the China Open because of a coin toss which went in favor of China’s Wang Qiang.

The 33-year-old Spaniard’s withdrawal — which has resulted in Wang taking a 2-0 lead in the title clash between the two former Grand Slam doubles champions — has sparked controversy in the Asian nation.

In 2006, Tour veteran Maria Sharapova was banned for two years after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.

Modding conspiracy or not, the accusations could prove to be a potential embarrassment for the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which conducts the Tour’s betting regulations.

“The sport in general is very proactive and it is a question of trying to address the issues, particularly when they get into the form of conspiracy theories and conspiracy theories that are extremely serious,” Matt Trincham, Director of Investigations for the Association of Tennis Professionals told CNN.

“That is unfortunate, but at the end of the day it is just a matter of making sure that we are consistent with the rules that are in place.”

Latest tennis betting scandal

In recent years, tennis corruption scandals have plagued the sport, with two players’ bans imposed for bribery allegations.

Last month a high-profile match between retired tennis player Florian Mayer and Slovakia’s Andrej Martin was declared a “fix” by German journalist Daniel Herman, who produced footage of the match.

In a press conference called earlier this month, Herman claimed it was “obvious” that Mayer and Martin were “personally involved in the fixing” and that there were “question marks about the tournament organizer in order to cover up the incident.”

Responding to Herman’s claims, Mayer said: “I don’t believe that what I did today is so serious that we should all think about the press conference. People say a lot of things that I cannot answer and I don’t understand why you don’t ask the truth.”

The incident resulted in the suspension of Philipp Mittermaier, chief executive of the European Tennis Tour (ETT), which organizes the ATP’s 500-player Premier Tour events. Mittermaier also resigned as a board member of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Additionally, tennis executives have condemned Herman’s actions, with Roland Garros executive president Bernard Giudicelli calling it “unacceptable.”

“I have the impression that an individual probably with political or betting motives aimed at attracting financial as well as media attention to his book, is to blame,” he said.

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