Naomi Osaka wants more information on Peng Shuai's safety, saying "everyone is waiting", but also praised the WTA handling of the situation.
In November, former Wimbledon and Roland Garros doubles champion Peng accused a former Chinese Communist party vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, of alleged sexual coercion three years ago.
Her Weibo social media account was then disabled and her public appearances have been sparse since, with Chinese state media releasing videos purportedly showing Peng at dinner, and another appearing to show her at a youth tennis match in Beijing in late November - the validity of both were widely questioned.
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That has prompted concern around the world - including from professional tennis players - about her safety and whereabouts.
And following her first-round Australian Open win against Camila Osorio, Osaka called for more information on Peng while praising the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) for suspending tournaments in China.
"I haven’t heard any news," she said. "So I’m not sure if that’s concerning or not. The WTA handled it really well and I'm really proud of them, and I think it’s a situation where we need more information, which is really hard."
I think everyone is waiting."
Osaka took a lengthy break from the sport in 2021 after struggling with her mental health, but she appeared in high spirits during her dominant 6-3, 6-3 performance and admitted she is more focused on "having fun" in the sport.
"I’ve been weighed down too much trying to prove myself," she added. "I just want to have fun first of all. I can’t expect myself to win every match, but I do expect myself to have fun and challenge myself.
“I just feel like there are situations where I previously would get upset but at this point in my life I’m here because I want to be here and because I find that it’s fun for me. I think just to be playing on Rod Laver and to have such a good streak on it is something I could be proud of and something I enjoy.
"I felt like I wanted to come back to play tennis. Usually it feels automatic but I came back when I wanted to come back."
And while Osaka has admitted to struggling with press conferences in the past, she looked calm and relaxed enough to expertly swerve a question on the Djokovic visa saga that has dominated the headlines.
When asked whether the Serbian world number one should be playing in Melbourne, she said: "I’ll pass on that, thanks though."
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