Doubt cast over China tennis star Peng Shuai's email

The head of the world body for women's tennis says he's even more worried about the welfare of Chinese player Peng Shuai after China's state media published an email it says is from her.

The 35-year-old tennis star has not been seen in public since she alleged on social media that former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex, and that they later had an on-off consensual relationship.

On Wednesday, Chinese state-affiliated media outlet CGTN released on Twitter what it said was an email Peng had sent to the chairman of the Women's Tennis Association, Steve Simon.

In the email, Peng says the allegation of assault was untrue.

But Simon has been quick to cast doubt on its validity.

In a written statement, he said: "The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts... I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her."

The email which CGTN attributes to Peng says: "I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine."

China's State Council Information Office and the Chinese Tennis Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neither did a representative for Peng.

Beijing has yet to comment on her initial allegation, and discussion of the topic has been blocked on China's heavily censored Internet.

Peng was the first Chinese player to top the world rankings when she was doubles number one in 2014.

Zhang, who is 40 years her senior, was a vice premier between 2013 and 2018.

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