Rumors of a tennis 'breakaway tour' fueled by Saudi Arabia raise eyebrows
Dec 01, 2023
For months, rumors have been swirling about Saudi Arabia on the verge of a complete tennis tour takeover. And it makes sense. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has made some big moves into several sports including golf, soccer, and boxing. Could tennis be next?
Essentially Sports writes, "What’s a better investment than the ever-growing sports industry? Now, it’ll be interesting to see how the tennis world refrains from the astounding numerical figures that come up with every Saudi investment... This could result in a knock-out blow for the ATP and WTA tour."
The latest buzz comes from Jon Wertheim (via Twitter): “FWIW, [I'm] hearing more chatter about the Slams joining to acquire 10 biggest events, forming a super tour (with Saudi Arabia getting 10th event)…leaving ATP and WTA to run 500s and year-end finals…lot of hurdles to clear but this would be the proverbial game-changer…stay tuned."
In turn, Tennis365 posits: "The four Grand Slams – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – could form the central part of a new-look tour that would feature 10 Masters series events, including an extra tournament in Saudi Arabia. The nine Masters 1000 events would be ‘bought out’ and added to the new-look breakaway tour."
Above: A look at the players in the Next Gen ATP Finals checking out Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. YouTube: ATP Tour.
In fact, the Saudis are already moving in on the sport. The ATP’s Next Gen Finals is taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this week. And on December 26th, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz are scheduled in Saudi Arabia for a lucrative exhibition match which further showcases the allure of the country's ability to draw top talent.
On the women's side, some have suggested (but not yet confirmed) that the WTA Finals will be played in the Saudi capital of Riyadh next year.
“I would prefer the WTA not to go to Saudi Arabia. Obviously, they have human rights issues, just the way they treat women. I would be against it, but I don’t have a vote,” said tennis legend Chris Evert.
John McEnroe also weighed in: “A lot of the people … are hypocrites that sit around and say that golf or tennis shouldn’t go there while tons of businesses... including our government and many, many others [who] go there and do business. All of a sudden it’s outrageous that sports athletes do it."
But McEnroe concludes, “ Having said that, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t think our sport needs it... I don’t think it would benefit from it, and I don’t think we should do it, personally. But as [Chris Evert] said, it’s not up to us. Someone else is going to make that decision. I don’t understand why we’re going in that direction.”