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Jamie Murray: Tennis authorities’ approach may differ – but making sure Peng Shuai is safe and can get on with her life is imperative

Great Britain's Jamie Murray with doubles partner, China's Peng Shuai, during their match against USA's Abigail Spears and Poland's Mariusz Fyrstenberg at the 2012 Australian Open in Melbourne.
Great Britain's Jamie Murray with doubles partner, China's Peng Shuai, during their match against USA's Abigail Spears and Poland's Mariusz Fyrstenberg at the 2012 Australian Open in Melbourne.

As we move closer to the much-anticipated Schroders Battle of the Brits – Scotland versus England event at P&J Live later this month, tennis hero Jamie Murray continues to serve up a series of exclusive columns for the Press and Journal.

In this latest instalment, Jamie – a multiple Grand Slam champion in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles – gives his view on the concerning situation involving Chinese doubles specialist Peng Shuai, before also discussing the latest Battle of the Brits developments.

China situation is difficult for tennis authorities – but the most important thing is making sure Peng Shuai is safe, well and can get on with her life

Much of the media coverage of tennis in recent weeks has been focused on China’s Peng Shuai and how she has allegedly been treated by the authorities in her country after accusing a top official of sexual assault.

It was concerning to watch as various bodies tried to confirm Peng’s whereabouts, and there are still concerns over the top doubles player’s safety.

From the two Tours’ perspective, it is obviously an incredibly difficult situation – especially for the WTA.

So much of the women’s Tour is based in China, with so many events there – including their Tour finals and one of their four premier competitions – and a significant amount of investment.

China’s Peng Shuai.

However, the WTA have decided their stance will be to cut off ties with the country. It is a big move and they have made a statement by doing this.

In terms of the ATP Tour, there are fewer events in China. There’s the Shanghai Masters, Beijing and a couple of other things, and I don’t know how it is going to play out on the men’s side of the game.

So far, the stance of ATP officials has been to try to continue to engage, with a statement from the Tour reading: “having a global presence gives us the best chance of… making an impact”. Similarly, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) – the sport’s governing body – have said, although they “stand in support of women’s rights”, they don’t want to “punish a billion people” by suspending all professional tournaments and grassroots work in China.

It is hard to say what the correct approach is, and we will have to wait and see whether the WTA’s hardline decision to pull women’s professional tennis out of China makes a difference. I just hope this sad situation is resolved soon, and Peng is safe, well and can get back to her normal life, including tennis.

I played mixed doubles with Peng at the Australian Open about a decade ago. We decided to play together right on the deadline, so we didn’t have much time to get to know each other, although I already knew her coach a little bit.

Peng Shuai of China serves against Monica Niculescu of Romania during their women’s singles match of the China Open tennis tournament at the Diamond Court in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

She seemed really nice and was always smiling, but the language barrier was another factor which prevented us having too much in the way of communication on the court. Peng’s English wasn’t great – and my Chinese is terrible!

I enjoyed playing with her though.

As I said, I hope the situation resolves itself soon and Peng can get on with her life and career.

Battle of the Brits – Scotland v England excitement building

Tuesday marks two weeks before Battle of the Brits – Scotland v England starts at P&J Live in Aberdeen.

I’m excited to put on a top-class tennis show across December 21 and 22 for the fans packed into the north-east arena, but also for those watching on BBC iPlayer.

We’ve added young, up-and-coming players Aidan McHugh and Paul Jubb to Team Scotland and Team England, respectively, to provide cover in case anyone else goes down ill or injured.

Hopefully it will be a cool experience for them to be part of the teams and also experience the atmosphere in the venue.

There is plenty they will be able to learn from Andy, Cam, Evo and Joe during their time in Aberdeen.

Andy and Jamie Murray will face England's team on December 21-22 at P&J Live.
Aidan McHugh will join Jamie Murray, right, and Andy Murray on Team Scotland.

Aidan, who is from Glasgow, and Jubby, jumped at the chance to get involved. I think for Aidan, especially, who will experience a big Scottish crowd in Scotland, it will be a lot of fun.

In the build-up to the event, my mum Judy has been invaluable in engaging with the community and putting on tennis sessions for youngsters in the north-east.

We ran a Battle of the Brits – Scotland v England drawing competition with the Evening Express for kids and received more than 250 entries. These will go up in the team rooms to inspire the players.

The whole point of bringing Battle of the Brits to Scotland was to get people engaged with the sport. These extra elements have hopefully built excitement for the matches, but I also hope they will help grow tennis in the country.

Tickets for Battle of the Brits – Scotland v England in Aberdeen

For Battle of the Brits – Scotland versus England tickets ahead of the event on December 21 and 22, click here.

The tennis action will be spread across three sessions, with two-time Wimbledon champion, US Open winner and double Olympic gold medallist Sir Andy Murray playing in every session.

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