Australian Open chiefs defend ban on ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts at Melbourne Park

The Australian Open has been forced to defend itself again after fans were banned from wearing clothing and signs in support of missing Chinese star Peng Shuai.

Two activists were shown at Melbourne Park this weekend being ordered by security staff to cover up banners and T-shirts emblazoned with the now established question ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’

There is the promise of more demonstrations concerning the former Wimbledon doubles champion at next Saturday’s women’s final.

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An Australian Open fan has been forced to remove a shirt expressing welfare concerns for tennis star Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of rape

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Peng appears to have been under house arrest since making allegations of sexual assault against a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Tennis Australia, which has been under fire for its handling of the Novak Djokovic affair, said the move was part of a broader policy.

‘Under our ticket conditions of entry we don’t allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political,’ read a statement.

‘Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and global tennis community to seek clarity on her situation and will do everything we can.’

Peng disappeared from the public eye for three weeks after she made a post on Chinese social media making the sexual assault allegations on November 2

On the court, men’s No 3 seed Alex Zverev saw his hopes of a first Grand Slam title extinguished after a shock 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 defeat against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

Zverev, who was in the half of the draw missing Novak Djokovic, was critical of himself for missing his chance.

‘There is not much I can say or take away that was positive,’ he said. ‘Maybe since Wimbledon, it’s one of the worst matches I have played.

‘I’ve got to do better. I came here with a goal to win and maybe to become world No 1 but if I play like that I don’t deserve it.’

Flamboyant Canadian left-hander Shapovalov will now face Rafael Nadal, who enjoyed a comfortable 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Adrian Mannarino.

Alex Zverev saw his hopes of a first Grand Slam title extinguished after a shock defeat

It is another Frenchman, veteran Gael Monfils, who has taken advantage of Djokovic’s removal as top seed. He is through to the last eight and will meet Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini.

Ash Barty is three wins away from becoming the women’s champion after defeating Naomi Osaka’s conqueror, Amanda Anisimova. She will now take on another American Jessica Pegula.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares were knocked out in the doubles third round, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 by Italians Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli.

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