Tennis: Saudi Arabia will host the men’s tennis tour’s Next Gen ATP Finals through 2027

AP , Thursday 24 Aug 2023

Saudi Arabia will host the men’s tennis tour’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah through 2027 under an agreement announced Thursday, the latest foray into sports by the kingdom.

Carlos Alcaraz
Spain s Carlos Alcaraz returns the ball to Argentina s Sebastian Baez during the ATP Next Gen semifinal tennis tournament in Milan, Italy, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. AP

 

The end-of-season tournament for the ATP’s leading 21-and-under players will be held this year at the King Abdullah Sports City on an indoor hard court from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

The event’s prize money will rise to $2 million, a jump of more than 40% from the $1.4 million handed out in 2022, when the last of five editions was held in Milan.

It is the first time an official ATP event will be held in Saudi Arabia and part of a recent trend involving various sports linking with the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund that claims assets of about $700 billion.

The PGA Tour, European Tour and Saudi-funded LIV Golf announced a collaboration last month. Formula One put a race in Saudi Arabia in 2021, the same year the kingdom bought English soccer club Newcastle United. Saudi soccer teams have been signing big-name players.

WTA Chairman Steve Simon visited the kingdom with tennis players in February, and he acknowledged shortly before Wimbledon that his tour will “continue to have conversations” with the Saudis.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has enacted wide-ranging social reforms, including granting women the right to drive and largely dismantling male guardianship laws that had allowed husbands and male relatives to control many aspects of women’s lives. Men and women are still required to dress modestly, but the rules have been loosened and the once-feared religious police have been sidelined.

Same-sex relations are punishable by death or flogging, although prosecutions are rare. Authorities ban all forms of LGBTQ+ advocacy, even confiscating rainbow-colored toys and clothing.

Even as the government has enacted top-down reforms, it has severely cracked down on any form of political dissent, arresting women’s rights activists and other critics and sentencing them to long prison terms and travel bans, sometimes on the basis of a few tweets.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has worked to get himself out of international isolation since the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. He also clearly wants to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and reduce its reliance on oil.

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