Peng Shuai sues for right to play again after being banned for not winning a point

The International Tennis Federation’s punishment for China’s Peng Shuai earning only one point at the French Open – one of just two matches she was able to complete over three days in May – was to indefinitely suspend her accreditation to play tennis at major tournaments. She claimed the ITF was punishing a billion people in China. “The ITF announced its decision today with no explanation,” Peng said in a statement on Sunday. “Then the ITF fined me 200,000 EUR for a single point, and said that I wasn’t allowed to play in any of their tournaments for one year. All my behavior during the French Open has been out of the competition spirit. I want to express my thanks to my fans in China and all my well-wishers around the world for their support and I hope that I can come back to playing tournaments in a couple of months.” The ITF is notorious for taking aggressive stances in player disputes, most famously its move against Raymond Moore, a Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon, for calling women’s tennis ‘a man’s game.’ Moore stepped down from his role at the Association of Tennis Professionals, which governs men’s tennis, and said in his letter of resignation that he had suffered “disastrous publicity.” And when the ITF gets involved, it’s generally good for good press.

The ITF took a similar stance after Serena Williams was punched by a line judge at the 2014 Australian Open. Her blood-thinning medicine made her bleed easily, and although a French Open supervisor had intervened to stop the brawl, the ITF banned Williams from competing in any international tour event for two years – a punishment that was reduced in 2015.

Both Williams and Peng have confirmed that their respective agents have advised them that they are free to appeal the fine to a tribunal of independent arbitrators, a procedure that could result in the fines being canceled and the games to be replayed. If the fines are eventually voided, then Peng will be eligible to play at the French Open next month as scheduled.

A key word in both these situations has been “disputed.” While Peng can in theory appeal the fine, it’s difficult to imagine her after such an aggressive and well-publicized outburst. It’s not uncommon for the ITF to fine players for ridiculous on-court outbursts, like serving a ball in the vicinity of a line judge, but Williams and Peng have made their displeasure over these matters clear.

When I asked Peng’s coach about the suspension, he repeated his earlier statement that she had been “just provoked.”

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