French Open officials deny allegations of racism after field is reduced

A news release by the French Open organizers said one of the reasons they scrapped the field was that there weren’t enough players. The French Open rejected allegations that the organizers withdrew 16 players…

French Open officials deny allegations of racism after field is reduced

A news release by the French Open organizers said one of the reasons they scrapped the field was that there weren’t enough players.

The French Open rejected allegations that the organizers withdrew 16 players on Thursday, reducing the field to let the controversial Peng Shuai — not a threat to grass, according to WTA Tour official Gennaro Castaldo — play her fourth-round match Friday on Court 1.

“HOLY CRAP!!! In some supposed ‘CNN’ that what they say from WTA?” tweeted Petrova. “Another sexist comment from the @WTA. Total BS.”

WTA officials also said that they were waiting on Thursday’s announcement before making a decision regarding Peng’s match. If Peng advanced past her fourth-round opponent, No. 7 seed Kristina Mladenovic, then the WTA would have postponed its decision, which in effect would have allowed the player playing in Peng’s draw, unseeded Polona Hercog, to advance.

“The WTA must not be proven wrong,” tweeted former French Open champ Conchita Martinez. “Peng Shuai as a possible French Open semifinalist/finalist being withdrawn from the draw, knowing that it was already fixed with the organizers hoping that Peng would lose in the first week? Shocking.”

Martinez blamed the WTA in part for Peng’s wild-card application’s omission from a WTA ranking list released before her first-round win Wednesday, raising suspicions that she wasn’t among the first 128 participants in the main draw. In reply to a query from ESPN.com, Hercog said she will play Peng as planned.

In recent days, the WTA, which shares the same parent company as the ATP, has been accused of favoring certain players, in a way that was originally focused on Serena Williams, that also includes her sister, Venus, China’s Peng and Russia’s Ksenia Pervak, a 2016 Wimbledon semifinalist who missed the field for this year’s Grand Slams.

Peng, however, is not the only one excluded by French Open organizers. Mladenovic wasn’t included in an expanded field and was eliminated after Tuesday’s first round because she was too far back in the rankings.

In a tweet Thursday, WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said “that there was absolutely nothing about Peng.” Simon said that Peng and Petrova, who advanced to the fourth round Thursday, “are both wonderful players who always play on the WTA Tour at a high level of competition, and we do not have problems with them. That’s the way it is.”

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