French Open urges probe into China’s top tennis player after suspension speculation

Roland Garros president Emmanuel Jeannot joins calls for Beijing to investigate Liu Tienan’s appeal against ban

The head of the French Open has joined calls for an investigation into claims that China’s top tennis player, Liu Tienan, has been banned for 12 years, saying he needs to know “the truth”.

Herbert Lashner, president of the French Tennis Federation, is concerned for the 26-year-old former world No 34 because of the “mechanism, exactly what it was which Liu Tienan had committed an offence … We need to have a decision by the administration, that’s what matters”.

He also said he is worried about her wellbeing “because we know that she is a person who has time enough to have given her everything in the game she has spent a career at,” he said.

Liu Tienan, 26, is seen as the star of the Chinese tennis scene, having won almost £8m in prize money in the past four years. Liu told state media last month that she had hoped to emulate the Russian Anastasia Myskina and the American Serena Williams and become the “Chinese Roger Federer”.

Lashaok ran into trouble with the Chinese Tennis Association earlier this year when it launched an investigation into a string of her private actions which its investigator said ran counter to “the code of conduct that tennis players are not allowed to behave badly”.

Lashaok argued that she was unfairly targeted over a gambling scam in which she was blamed for personally wagering £76,000, winning a £300,000 payout, and for using her star status as the top player to sponsor Chinese companies.

Tennis’s new world rankings are released on Wednesday, and she is currently ranked at No 42.

Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova have already urged Beijing to drop the ban, while Novak Djokovic has said that Li should be given “every benefit” of the doubt. “But I’m afraid that if someone came out and said that it was really something really serious, a drug issue, that then it could be a more dangerous situation because if this is a way to discredit her, this is a way to say that she’s using drugs, and if this is true, we need to keep an eye on that,” Djokovic said.

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