LONDON • The 2013 Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai's season was all but over on Wednesday after she was handed a six-month ban and a US$10,000 (S$13,600) for breaching the sport's anti-corruption code - by attempting to change her doubles partner after the sign-in deadline.
The 32-year-old Chinese was found to have used coercion and offered the possibility of financial reward in return for her main draw partner, believed to be Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium, agreeing to withdraw from the women's doubles event at Wimbledon last year.
Although the offer was refused and Peng did not compete in the doubles at the All England Club last July, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) said in a statement that her actions breached Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP) rules. They state that "no covered person shall, directly or indirectly, contrive or attempt to contrive the outcome or any other aspect of any event".
"The suspension applies with immediate effect and means that the player cannot compete in or attend any event organised, sanctioned or recognised by the governing bodies of the sport," said the statement.
Half of her ban is suspended on the condition that no further breaches are committed.
Peng's former French coach, Bertrand Perret, was suspended from obtaining tournament credentials for three months for the same offence.
According to The Beijing News, the controversy came about after India's Sania Mirza, who was returning from injury, had asked to partner Peng at Wimbledon last year, but the Chinese had already linked up with Russian Daria Kasatkina.
But Kasatkina later got injured and, when Peng asked Mirza again, the Indian said she had found a new partner in Kirsten Flipkens.
Perret then recommended van Uytvanck to her. Two days later, Mirza called to say Flipkens was injured and agreed to withdraw if she found a better choice.
Peng went through her coach to ask van Uytvanck, but she was not willing because she had changed her schedule and incurred extra expenses such as renting a house.
Peng admitted Perret texted van Uytvanck to tell her that they were willing to give her the first-round prize money as compensation, but never wanted her to withdraw using the excuse of injury.
Peng told The Beijing News: "At the time, I really hoped to pair with Mirza. Then we did mention we were willing to give her the prize money from the first round, but it was used to compensate van Uytvanck for her extra schedule and accommodation."
Peng, ranked 20th in doubles and 80th in singles, will be ruled out from the WTA Tour till Nov 8.
She has two singles and 21 doubles titles, including a triumph at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open a year later.
She was the top-ranked doubles player in February 2014 and achieved a career-best singles ranking of 14th in August 2011.