Billie Jean King ‘proud’ of WTA for standing up for human rights in the wake of Peng Shuai case

China's Peng Shuai in action

Tennis icon Billie Jean King has praised the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) for putting human rights above profit following their decision to suspend tournaments in China due to concerns over the safety and well-being of Peng Shuai.

Former doubles world No 1 Peng hit the headlines at the start of November when she accused former Chinese Communist party vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, of alleged sexual coercion in a post on Weibo.

The post was almost immediately removed and her social media account was suspended while the 35-year-old disappeared from public life for the best part of three weeks.

She later re-emerged during footage released by state media while she also had a video call with the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

IOC defends ‘discreet’ approach to Peng Shuai situation, insisting they are in direct contact with player

However, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon insisted that there was “serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation” and the organisation followed through with threats to suspend all activity in China.

“I’m very happy the WTA stood for her. There will be a lot of challenges ahead of us, but standing up for human rights and abuse is really important,” King told Eurosport at the Sports Illustrated Awards.

“I founded the organisation in 1973, so I’m really proud of us.

“I’m glad that the women are standing up for what’s right. The main thing is that she’s safe and I hope she’s all right.”

Although the governing body for men’s tennis, Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), has backed the WTA’s decision, they have not suspended events in the country.

When asked if she would like to see more support from the ATP, King said: “That would be nice, I think we would like more support from the men.

“I’ve always wanted men and women to be together in one association, that’s really my dream for us, it always has been.

“We should all work together to help our sport — also off the court – in a more powerful way, more meaningful way.”