Tunisia’s world number six Ons Jabeur welcomed reports of Saudi Arabian interest in tennis, saying on Tuesday the time was right for the Gulf country to invest in the sport and she would “100 per cent” compete in WTA tournaments there if it benefited players.
Saudi Arabia has pumped huge amounts of money into football, Formula One and boxing in recent years while the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit recently ended its two-year dispute with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour by announcing a merger.
WTA chairman Steve Simon said last week there were still “big issues” with Saudi Arabia as a potential host for WTA events and the governing body of women’s tennis had not yet made any decisions or entered into negotiations with the country.
His comments came after men’s ATP Tour chief Andrea Gaudenzi said he held discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and other potential investors on projects including infrastructure, events and technology investment.
“I think it’s a completely different situation than golf. If it benefits the player, I’m 100% there. I hope in Saudi they’ll not just invest with the ATP, I hope with the WTA (too),” Jabeur said after beating Magdalena Frech 6-3 6-3 in her Wimbledon opener.
Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of using the PIF to engage in “sportwashing” amid criticism of its human rights record. The country denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security through its laws.
“I believe in Saudi they’re doing great giving women more rights,” 2022 Wimbledon runner-up Jabeur added. “It’s time to change things...
“It’s now or never. I hope they really invest in WTA.
“I went to Saudi last year, and I was very impressed with the people there. I believe it could be a great idea to go there and play tournaments.
“Let’s see what the deal will be. I hope they’ll see us for players, not just an investment but to give us more benefits than what we’re having right now.”
Men’s world number one Carlos Alcaraz said he would have no doubts about competing in Saudi Arabia, while seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe said tennis should not seek Saudi investment.
Twice Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said he would have to think twice about playing in the country after refusing in the past to participate in exhibition events there.
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