the Saudi sovereign fund announces “a strategic partnership” with rather murky contours with the ATP circuit

Saudi Arabia continues to permeate the world of sport. After football, Formula 1, the LIV golf circuit and MotoGP, tennis has in turn been in the Gulf kingdom’s sights for some time. On Wednesday February 28, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country’s sovereign fund – one of the largest in the world, which, at the end of 2020, managed 350 billion euros – announced that it had reached an agreement to “multi-year strategic partnership” with the ATP men’s tennis circuit.

“This partnership aims to improve world tennis and its long-term future, indicates the PIF in its press release. It must open up new opportunities for tennis players to come. » A little further on, we learn that the PIF “will become the official partner of the ATP rankings which will henceforth be called the PIF ATP Rankings” and that he “will crown the world number one of the year at the finals [du Masters]in Turin ».

In addition to the “Masters Next Gen” – an exclusively men’s tournament which promotes the future of tennis through the new generation and innovative rules – which it is already organizing until 2027, Saudi Arabia will now also join the tournaments of ‘Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing. Without any details being provided regarding this ” association “.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The Next Gen Masters, the showcase of tomorrow’s tennis

In the press release, Massimo Calvelli, CEO of the ATP, welcomed the fact that this partnership marks “a major turning point in the history of tennis” and he is going “propel the future of this sport”.

“Sportwashing” strategy

In an attempt to whiten its image (strategy of “sportswashing”), the Gulf country had already tackled the little yellow ball. At the end of December, the Riyadh Season Tennis Cup welcomed tour boss Novak Djokovic and his Spanish runner-up Carlos Alcaraz, as well as the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (world number 2) and the Tunisian Ons Jabeur (number 6) during an exhibition on the sidelines of the launch of the 2024 season. “It was an extraordinary experience, Sabalenka enthused. They treated us really well. They really like tennis. »

Monday January 15, Spanish star Rafael Nadal was appointed ambassador of the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF) to ensure the “promotion of tennis”. A Rafa Nadal academy should be created in the country.

Read also | Article reserved for our subscribers Nadal ambassador, Women’s Masters envisaged, tennis in turn gives in to the sirens of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia could also soon host the WTA Masters, where the eight best players of the year compete at the end of the season. In June 2023, the president of the WTA, Steve Simon, announced that the body governing the professional women’s circuit “ evaluated » the possibility of moving this tournament to the kingdom, while conceding that the option was “difficult and complex”.

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, two legends of women’s tennis, then spoke out in response to these persistent rumors: “We fully understand the importance of respecting different cultures and religions. For this reason, “We believe that allowing Saudi Arabia to host the WTA Finals is completely inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of women’s tennis, and the WTA itself.”

Reuse this content

source site-28