Saudi Arabia is in talks to host pro tennis tournaments
The GIST: Saudi Arabia is following up its World Cup win with another tournament play — this time, beginning talks with IMG to take over the Miami Open or Mutua Madrid Open. Prestigious 1000-level events like these have sold for several hundred million in the past, but that shouldn’t faze wealthy Saudi investors. Game, set, match.
The context: Saudi officials have been chatting up top tennis execs for over a year, resulting in major hosting wins in men’s tennis. The 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals are in Jeddah later this month, followed by two December exhibition matches, one of them featuring world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz.
- The country hasn’t been as lucky on the women’s side, but is hoping to change that. After a year-long push to host this month’s WTA Finals, Saudi Arabia ultimately lost to Cancun, Mexico at the last minute.
The critiques: Like soccer, recent Saudi interest in tennis has garnered criticism of the nation’s policies towards women and its criminalization of LGBTQ+ individuals. This pushback resulted in a canceled Visit Saudi campaign at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) and ongoing opposition to its pursuit of a 2035 WWC bid.
The support: World No. 7 Ons Jabeur, No. 5 Jessica Pegula, and legend Billie Jean King believe bringing women’s tennis to the region could provide a host of benefits, including cultivating a culture for women’s sports. Athletes might also see larger prize pools, addressing pay concerns that have only been bolstered by recent WTA Finals conditions.
The trend: Saudi Arabia is snatching up every major sports opportunity imaginable, including a potential $5B investment in Indian cricket. It’s working on the men’s side with LIV Golf and the unrivaled 2034 WC bid, and international companies like the PGA and NBA are becoming more amenable to the Saudi cash influx. C.R.E.A.M.