Ash Barty has announced her engagement to Liverpool fan and golfer Garry Kissick, capping a memorable year in style.

Barty added another sparkler to her collection when she revealed an engagement ring on Tuesday, having already landed the glistening Wimbledon trophy and an Olympic medal in the 2021 season.

She posted a picture of herself and Kissick on Instagram, showing off her ring and captioning the shot "Future Husband".

Kissick is a trainee professional at Brookwater Golf Club, a venue close to Brisbane, and is often seen in a Liverpool Football Club shirt, as was the case with the engagement picture.

He and Barty have visited Liverpool's home ground of Anfield together.

Speaking about having the likes of Kissick and coach Craig Tyzzer with her on the road, Barty said during her run to the Wimbledon title in July: "It's nice to be able to share some of these awesome moments with those that put so much time and energy into my career and allow me, encourage me, help me kind of work and figure out a plan and a way that they try and achieve our dreams. I think being able to share that with them is really special."

Barty won a bronze in mixed doubles at Tokyo 2020 alongside long-time friend John Peers, describing that achievement as "a dream come true".

She also won the Yarra Valley Classic, the Stuttgart Open, and WTA 1000 titles at Miami and Cincinnati before calling time on her season after a third-round exit from the US Open, where she lost to Shelby Rogers.

Barty finished the season as world number one for a third successive year, despite her recent inactivity.

She said a major triumph in her homeland was a priority for 2022, saying: "My focus is now on the Australian summer and doing everything I can to win the Australian Open. I can't wait to play at home again."

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has welcomed pictures that show Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai on a video call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, but say they do not alleviate its concerns about her well-being.

The 35-year-old had been widely considered to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaol, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, more than three weeks ago.

According to the IOC, Peng said she is "safe and well" in the call with president Bach on Sunday.

The IOC said in a statement that Peng had spoken to president Bach for 30 minutes.

"She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time," the statement added.

"That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."

In response, a WTA spokesperson said: "It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.

"This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern."

Despite footage released by Chinese state-run media on Saturday purporting to show Peng in a restaurant with friends, followed by images of her at a youth tournament on Sunday, concerns have continued to be raised regarding her safety.

Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are among those to have called for answers on Peng's whereabouts.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai said she is "safe and well" in a video call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach on Sunday, the governing body said.

Peng had been widely considered to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, more than three weeks ago.

Despite footage released by Chinese state-run media on Saturday purporting to show Peng in a restaurant with friends, followed by images of the 35-year-old at a youth tournament on Sunday, concerns have been raised regarding her safety.

However, with the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic calling for answers on Peng's whereabouts, the former world number 14 has now spoken publicly for the first time since November 2.

In a statement released on Sunday, the IOC said Peng had spoken to president Bach for 30 minutes.

The announcement added: "She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.

"That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."

The statement included an image of the video call between Bach and Peng, who was smiling to the camera.

IOC member Li Lingwei and IOC Athletes Commission chair Emma Terho were also on the call, with the latter adding: "I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. 

"She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated."

Prior to Sunday's latest development, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) called for more information about Peng.

"I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing," said WTA chairman and chief executive officer Steve Simon in response to the restaurant footage.

"While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. 

"This video alone is insufficient. As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai's health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. 

"I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has welcomed a video released by China state-run media that appears to show tennis star Peng Shuai, but continued to raise concerns about her safety.

Peng has been widely considered to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

The video was posted on Twitter by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, who said it was taken on Saturday and shows Peng with her coach and friends in a restaurant in Beijing.

A statement released by WTA chairman and chief executive officer Steve Simon on Saturday said: "I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing. 

"While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. 

"This video alone is insufficient. As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai's health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. 

"I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."

Earlier on Saturday, Hu Xijin had claimed that Peng was safe and well in her own home and will soon "show up in public" to allay concerns about her wellbeing.

Three purportedly new pictures of Peng have been reportedly posted on Chinese messaging app WeChat, along with a "Happy Weekend" message.

Tennis star Peng Shuai is safe and well in her own home and will soon "show up in public" to allay concerns about her wellbeing, a leading Chinese state media journalist claimed on Saturday.

Peng has been widely considered to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said two-time grand slam doubles champion Peng "didn't want to be disturbed".

Three purportedly new pictures of Peng have been reportedly posted on Chinese messaging app WeChat, along with a "Happy weekend" message.

They show her sitting in a room surrounded by soft toys, lifting up a grey cat, and holding a toy panda. In each of the pictures, which have not been externally verified as being recent, Peng appears to be well and content.

Hu wrote on Twitter: "I confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are indeed Peng Shuai's current state.

"In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon."

There have been fears expressed for Peng's safety from within tennis and beyond, and the veracity of subsequent messages from Peng – both on email and posted in her name on Weibo – has been questioned.

There has also been early scepticism expressed about the latest pictures of the 35-year-old.

United States president Joe Biden on Friday called for China to provide "independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe".

WTA stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are among leading figures to have spoken of their concern for Peng, and men's world number one Novak Djokovic weighed in on Friday, saying he would support any move by the women's tour to back out of events in China.


French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday led its front page with the question "Ou est Peng Shuai?" – Where is Peng Shuai? – as global concern continued to escalate.

Australia's former doubles world number one Paul McNamee said it was vital that hard evidence is produced to confirm she is safe and well.

McNamee wrote on Twitter: "Peng Shuai, an independent woman of substance, is someone I got to know pretty well. Along with everyone else in the tennis community, I am very worried, as we long to see her and, I reiterate, hear her voice in person."

WTA chairman Steve Simon was quoted on Friday by the BBC as saying his organisation still had not heard from former French Open and Wimbledon doubles winner Peng directly and warned it would have no issue backing out of events in China without proof the player was safe.

The authenticity of an email said to have been sent from Peng this week to the WTA has been questioned, leading Simon to say it "only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts".

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has insisted all players, including Novak Djokovic, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to compete at the January grand slam.

Djokovic's vaccination status is unclear, and he has so far refused to confirm whether he has been jabbed, which has led to doubts over whether he will be in Melbourne.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has made it clear that tennis stars arriving for the tournament must be prepared to show proof of having protection against the virus.

For Djokovic, who is competing this week at the ATP Finals in Turin, it remains to be seen whether he is willing to go through that process.

Tiley told Channel Nine: "It's been made very clear, when the Premier announced several weeks ago that in order to participate at the Australian Open, to come into Victoria, you'll need to be fully vaccinated.

"Immediately we communicated that to the playing group, it is the one direction that you take that is going to ensure everyone's safety. All the playing group understands it, our patrons will need to be vaccinated, all the staff working at the Australian Open will need to be vaccinated.

"But when we're in a state where there's more than 90 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, they've done a magnificent job with that, it's the right thing to do."

Tiley said organisers "would love to see Novak" make the trip to a tournament he has won a record nine times.

Djokovic sits on 20 grand slam titles, the same mark as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He needs one more to set the outright men's record, having lost to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final in September.

"We have been speaking to Novak Djokovic's team and Novak and the team understand clearly that in order to come and play the Australian Open they'll need to be fully vaccinated," Tiley said, according to ABC.

"I know that he wants to play it, he's clearly indicated that and he knows the conditions that he'd have to undergo in order to be eligible to play."

The tournament is due to get under way on January 17, with the player bubbles and quarantine measures that were in force at the 2021 edition no longer in place and Melbourne Park set to operate at full capacity.

Australian player Nick Kyrgios this week said he believes the vaccine mandate is "morally wrong".

Novak Djokovic has supported the notion of tennis events being pulled from China if Peng Shuai is not found safe.

Doubles grand slam winner Peng is said to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

The veracity of subsequent messages from Peng – both on email and posted in her name on Weibo – has been questioned.

WTA chairman Steve Simon told the BBC his organisation still had not heard from Peng directly and warned it would have no issue backing out of events in China without proof the player was safe.

WTA icons Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have spoken of their concern for Peng, and men's world number one Djokovic weighed in on Friday, offering his support to Simon's stance.

"I support the statement of WTA as an organisation and also their president absolutely," Djokovic said.

"The whole tennis community needs to back her up and her family, make sure that she's safe and sound because if you would have tournaments on Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little bit strange.

"I heard that the WTA is willing to pull out from China with all the tournaments unless this is resolved. I support it 100 per cent."

Serena Williams has said she is "devastated and shocked" by the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts have become a mystery sparking international concern.

Doubles grand slam winner Peng is said to have been missing since making sexual assault allegations against a former top Chinese government official.

She posted on Chinese social media site Weibo allegations against Zhang Gaoli – the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee – claiming he had forced her to have sexual relations with him.

The head of the women's tour, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon, has questioned the veracity of an email purportedly written by the two-time major doubles champion saying that she is safe.

Now 23-time grand slam singles winner Williams has added her powerful voice, stating: "I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent."

WTA boss Simon said he had "a hard time believing" the email in Peng's name had come from the 35-year-old player herself. The message stated the allegations of sexual assault were not true and that Peng was "resting at home".

Former world number one Williams said she was "sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time", adding the hashtag "#whereispengshuai" to her Twitter message.

Williams and Peng have faced each other four times in their careers, with the American winning each of their singles matches, the most recent in 2014, while Peng and Sun Tiantian beat Williams and sister Venus Williams in doubles in Bangalore in 2008.

There has been concern throughout sport and beyond for the wellbeing of Peng, a French Open and Wimbledon doubles winner.

On Wednesday, Simon said it was important that there was "independent and verifiable proof that she is safe", saying the statement issued in her name "only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts".

He said he had made efforts to contact Peng "via numerous forms of communication, to no avail", saying she must be allowed to speak "freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source".

Peng's social media post containing her allegations, along with all of her other content, has been removed from Weibo.

Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka also spoke up this week, with the Japanese star stating: "Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

The MCG Ashes Test and the Australian Open will be watched by capacity crowds following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in Victoria.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced there will no longer be limits on gatherings in the state.

Andrews had revealed last month, when the latest lockdown ended, that he was hopeful at least 80,000 will be able to attend the Boxing Day Test.

Australia and England can now look forward to playing in front of a full house of 100,000 next month.

The first grand slam of the year, starting at Melbourne Park on January 17, is also set to be played without a cap on the number of spectators allowed in.

"Whether it's 100,000 people at the MCG on Boxing Day or a smaller group of people standing up at the … local pub, this is the COVID-normal that every Victorian has built," he said at a press conference.

Crowds for the 2021 Australian Open were limited to 30,000 people per day – around half capacity – prior to a snap lockdown being implemented during the tournament.

No more than 30,000 were permitted in the MCG for Australia's Boxing Day Test against India last year.

Now, Muguruza – at the age of 28 – is the oldest year-end champion since Serena Williams seven years ago and is up to third in the rankings.

For Muguruza it was never a question of if she had the game to be back among the elite players, merely just the need to prove so.

"I'm just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the 'maestra,' like how we say in Spanish," Muguruza said. "That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking.

"The last couple of years, I didn't play the same way I played before. But I didn't play bad tennis, either. 

"I was just here, there, not going into the deep rounds at grand slams that made the difference. I always felt I had the tennis. I was just not putting the battle together.

"I always believe I [could make] finals of a grand slam, [climb] the rankings, I'm like 'I have the tennis, I just have to show it'. It's hard, of course."

 

Now, Muguruza – at the age of 28 – is the oldest year-end champion since Serena Williams seven years ago and is up to third in the rankings.

For Muguruza it was never a question of if she had the game to be back among the elite players, merely just the need to prove so.

"I'm just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the 'maestra,' like how we say in Spanish," Muguruza said. "That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking.

"The last couple of years, I didn't play the same way I played before. But I didn't play bad tennis, either. 

"I was just here, there, not going into the deep rounds at grand slams that made the difference. I always felt I had the tennis. I was just not putting the battle together.

"I always believe I [could make] finals of a grand slam, [climb] the rankings, I'm like 'I have the tennis, I just have to show it'. It's hard, of course."

Garbine Muguruza became the first Spaniard to win the WTA Finals after defeating Anett Kontaveit 6-3 7-5 in a history-making victory.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was the only other player from Spain to reach the WTA Finals decider, finishing runner-up to Stefanie Graf in 1993.

But Muguruza exceeded that result as the former world number one proved too strong for Kontaveit at the prestigious year-ending championship on Wednesday.

Muguruza – a two-time grand slam champion – also celebrated her 10th WTA Tour title, having been the only player to beat Kontaveit within the last month following her group-stage success in Guadalajara.

After exchanging breaks in the opening set, Muguruza struck for a 4-3 lead, winning the last four games to seize control midweek.

Kontaveit claimed the early break in the second set as errors started to mount for Muguruza, who eventually found herself 5-3 adrift.

But as Kontaveit served for the set, Muguruza rallied in a dominant display, reeling off four consecutive games like she did in the opener to take home the WTA crown.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Kontaveit – 15/39
Muguruza – 16/25

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Kontaveit – 3/6
Muguruza – 2/0

BREAK POINTS WON 

Kontaveit – 2/4
Muguruza – 5/11

WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon says he is even more concerned about Peng Shuai after receiving an email purportedly written by the two-time major doubles champion saying she is safe.

Peng has reportedly been missing since making sexual assault allegations against a former top Chinese government official.

She posted on Chinese social media site Weibo allegations against Zhang Gaoli – the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee – claiming he had forced her to have sexual relations with him.

Chinese state media sent a statement to Simon with an email supposedly written by Peng stating the allegations of sexual assault were not true and that she is "resting at home."

The WTA boss on Wednesday reacted by saying he has "a hard time believing" Peng wrote the email and he is even more worried about the 35-year-old.

"The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts," he said in a statement.

"I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government.

"The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.

"Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.

"The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to."

The WTA called for a full investigation into the matter last week.

Peng's social media post, along with all of her other content, has been removed from Weibo.

A spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs informed reporters he was not aware of the situation.

"I have not heard of the issue you raised," the spokesperson said via a widely released statement. "This is not a diplomatic question."

Anett Kontaveit will face two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the WTA Finals decider after outlasting Maria Sakkari 6-1 3-6 6-3.

Kontaveit – the most in-form player on the WTA Tour – was pushed by fourth seed Sakkari in Tuesday's semi-final at the year-ending championship but fought hard to reach the biggest final of her career.

Having entered the Guadalajara showpiece on the back of three titles and 19 wins in 20 matches, eighth-seeded Estonian star Kontaveit maintained her momentum with her Tour-leading 48th win of the season.

Kontaveit will now go head-to-head with former world number one and sixth seed Muguruza in a repeat of their group-stage meeting, which the latter claimed in straight sets.

The first set was straightforward for Kontaveit, who broke twice as she dominated on serve against Greece's Sakkari.

But Sakkari – who trumped Aryna Sabalenka to reach the semi-finals at the expense of the top seed – remained composed, breaking at the end of the second set to force a decider.

After trading breaks early in the third, Kontaveit eventually prevailed as she looks to avenge her loss to Muguruza in Wednesday's title showdown.

Kontaveit is now a perfect 7-0 in semi-finals this year and the 25-year-old WTA Finals debutant stands on the cusp of a third straight trophy and fifth overall, which would tie world number one Ash Barty for the most this year.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Kontaveit – 26/33
Sakkari – 15/32

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Kontaveit – 6/3
Sakkari – 9/3

BREAK POINTS WON 

Kontaveit – 4/8
Sakkari – 2/2

Garbine Muguruza came out on top in an all-Spanish encounter with Paula Badosa to put herself within a match of winning a maiden WTA Finals title.

The highest-ranked player left in the competition, former world number one Muguruza triumphed 6-3 6-3 over the Indian Wells champion on Tuesday in Guadalajara.

Muguruza, who made the semi-final stage back in 2015, is hoping to become the first Spanish player to win the event, and will face Maria Sakkari or Anett Kontaveit in the final.

She took the first set in 36 minutes, taking two of the three break points she was offered as she set the tone for a dominant performance.

Badosa struggled again on serve early in the second set, giving Muguruza the chance to nose ahead.

To Badosa's frustration, three break points went begging in the third game as she missed the opportunity for an immediate response, and Muguruza never looked likely to offer up another opening as she claimed to a convincing win, reaching a fifth final of the season.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Badosa – 20/30
Muguruza – 17/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Badosa – 3/6
Muguruza – 2/3

BREAK POINTS WON 

Badosa – 0/3
Muguruza – 3/11

Maria Sakkari powered past Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the WTA Finals at the expense of the top seed.

Sakkari and Belarusian star Sabalenka went head-to-head in the final round-robin contest in Group Chichen Itza, with a semi-final berth up for grabs on Monday.

In her WTA Finals debut, fourth seed Sakkari won the final five games of the match to eliminate Sabalenka and earn a date with Anett Kontaveit.

Sabalenka had the chance to serve for the opening set at 5-3 but Sakkari fought back, saving a set point in her own service game to force a tie-break, which the Greek star raced away with.

The second set followed a similar theme – Sabalenka twice serving to send the match into a decider at 5-4 and 6-5, however, Sakkari made life difficult for her opponent.

Another tie-break was required, though this time Sabalenka outlasted Sakkari on her fourth set point after two hours of gruelling tennis.

Sabalenka proved her own worst enemy in the third set after tallying 10 double-faults as Sakkari rallied from 3-1 down to eventually upstage the Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist.

Having ended the match with 19 double-faults, Sabalenka departed the year-ending championship with 38 in total – only Oceane Dodin in Palermo (62) made more double-faults in a single WTA Tour tournament this season.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS  

Sakkari – 27/36
Sabalenka – 29/56

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Sakkari – 8/8
Sabalenka – 7/19

BREAK POINTS WON 

Sakkari – 8/13
Sabalenka – 6/12

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