Tennis, WTA: Finals in Saudi Arabia

As of: April 4, 2024 7:15 p.m

After Saudi Arabia has already made a financial commitment to men’s tennis, the financial commitment has now been expanded to include women’s tennis in the WTA. The finals will be played in Riyadh for three years – with exorbitant prize money.

At least those responsible at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) don’t beat around the bush for long. Her decision is primarily about money. The reason for choosing the venue was not the bad weather like last year in Cancun, Mexico, or other poor conditions.

The final tournament – the so-called finals (November 2nd to 9th) – of the best eight players of a year and the best eight doubles will be held between 2024 and 2026 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the WTA announced on Thursday (April 4th, 2024 ) with.

As part of the collaboration, there will also be cooperation programs that will develop and expand tennis for boys and girls in Saudi Arabia.

No surprise to experts

However, by choosing Riyadh, the tennis players are playing for an unprecedented prize money of 15.25 million dollars, which is set to increase in the next two years. For comparison: In Cacun it was recently worth nine million dollars.

“It is clear that Saudi Arabia is showing intense interest in investing in tennis,” DTB President Dietloff von Arnim told Sportschau in December. That’s why the implementation that has now been announced is no longer a surprise for the experts.

Thanks to the sovereign wealth fund PIF (Public Investment Fund) and its estimated reserves of $650 billion, financing is no problem for the monarch Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud.

WTA boss Simon: “Exciting opportunity”

In addition to participation in Formula 1, the upgrading of the Saudi Pro League with a number of expensive football stars (Cristiano Ronaldo etc.), the re-establishment of the LIV golf tour or participation in tournaments run by the WTA’s male tennis counterpart, the ATP, Saudi Arabia is getting involved another vehicle to have a say in world sport.

“Bringing the WTA Finals to Riyadh is an exciting new opportunity for us and a positive step for the long-term growth of women’s tennis as a global and inclusive sport,” said WTA CEO Steve Simon.

Strict guardianship system

The WTA apparently has no concerns about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, which is repeatedly heavily criticized by human rights organizations, or the treatment of women who, despite some social progress in recent years, are still subject to a strict guardianship system.

“This multi-year partnership expands the WTA’s presence in the Middle East and brings us into a country with great growth potential. It also supports our ambitious plans to accelerate the global development and progress of women’s tennis,” says Marina Storti, head of the WTA marketing company .

But: Women in Saudi Arabia still have to obtain permission from a male guardian in order to get married. Your freedom of expression is also restricted. Women who criticize risk persecution, imprisonment and torture.

All WTA aspects met

“Our country is on the rise. In recent years, women have already achieved a lot in all areas and taken many historic steps, with sport accounting for a large part of the progress throughout our society,” says Arij Mutabagani, President of the Saudi Tennis Association and the first elected female president of a Saudi Arabian sports association.

Rather, the WTA sees itself as being met by its wishes, which it clearly formulates. According to the association, the prerequisites for the award to Riyadh were the following aspects:

The ability to organize and finance a world-class event for players and fans. To generate support for the WTA’s goal of significantly increasing prize money. And the strength of commitment to the growth of WTA Finals and the sport over time.

Given the volume of the PIF, Saudi Arabia can easily meet all of the conditions and thus outstrips possible competitors from the outset.

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