A photo of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is on display as Yaxue Cao testifies
Missing Tennis Star Peng Shuai: What To Know As WTA Suspends Tournaments In China Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai made a U-turn by saying that there has been a "huge misunderstanding" over a post in which she claimed she was sexually assaulted.

On 2 Nov. 2, 2021, Shuai had published a lengthy note on Chinese social platform Weibo where she claimed former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex with him. The social media post detailed her relationship with the former Chinese party leader, and also included accusations that on at least one occasion she had felt coerced into having sex with him. The post was removed less than an hour after it was published. Then she disappeared for weeks, sparking global concern.

But in a recent interview with French newspaper L'Équipe, she said that she never alleged she was sexually assaulted. According to BBC, the interview was done in highly controlled circumstances. The French newspaper had to submit questions in advance, and the interview was organized at the Winter Olympics. A representative from China's Olympic Committee was also present during the interview and translated Shuai's comments from Chinese.

Shuai told the publication that she was living a normal life and expressed thanks for the concern directed towards her. She told L'Équipe, "I would like to know, why such concern? I never said anyone sexually assaulted me." She said that the November post had "given rise to a huge misunderstanding from the outside world," and that she had deleted the post herself because she "wanted to."

She might be just 36, but she hinted that she could retire from professional tennis. She said that considering her age, multiple surgeries and the coronavirus pandemic that forced her to stop for so long, "I believe it will be very difficult to regain my physical level."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also said that the tennis star had dinner with its president, Thomas Bach, in Beijing, China Saturday. Amid concerns for Shuai, Bach had earlier held a video call with the athlete.

In a statement released Monday evening, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said that the latest in-person interview had done nothing to alleviate its concerns about her well-being.

The body's chief executive, Steve Simon, said that they have "called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA" to meet Shuai privately to discuss her situation.

Last December, Shuai told a reporter of Singapore-based newspaper Lianhe Zaobao that she had never said that she wrote that anyone sexually assaulted her.

A photo of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is on display as Yaxue Cao testifies
As a photo of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai (L) is on display in the background, Yaxue Cao, founder and editor of China Change, testifies during a hearing before The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) at Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on February 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. CECC held a hearing on "The Beijing Olympics and the Faces of Repression." Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

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