Simon’s refusal to accept China’s authoritarian stance on human rights once it directly affected one of its players is in stark contrast to several prominent sports leaders who have repeatedly given in to the wishes of the Chinese, including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.
Simon was concerned about Peng’s physical safety, but also believed, like the members of his player council and others with whom he communicates regularly in a player chat group, that silencing Peng and her allegation of sexual assault amounted to a direct attack. on the principle of equality on which the WTA is based.
“It is now December and we have not yet seen any significant progress,” he said on Wednesday evening.
Simon, a 66-year-old Southern California native, played tennis at Long Beach State University with Lea Antonoplis in 1981 and mixed doubles at Wimbledon. He has spent his adult life coaching tennis, directing the tennis program for Adidas and organizing and directing the BNP Paribas Open, a joint men’s and women’s event in Indian Wells, California, known as the Fifth Grand Slam.
All the while, Simon was quietly gaining authority within tennis circles, even though few players knew him particularly well. He started on the board of the WTA in 2004.
In 2009, he worked to appoint Stacey Allaster, then president of the WTA, as the next chief executive. Allaster said during a difficult time for her candidacy, she asked Simon privately if he might be better suited to lead the organization.
“Without a blink of an eye, he turned to me and said, ‘No, we’re staying on course,'” said Allaster.
Six years later, after Allaster decided to resign, the WTA board unanimously elected Simon to succeed her. Since then, he’s cultivated the support of the sport’s biggest stars past and present, including Serena Williams and King, the founder of the WTA, while perpetuating his decades-long relationships with the tournament directors who formed his initial support.