Saudi Arabia allegedly buying the ATP ranking system through its Public Investment Fund (PIF) — a Sovereign Wealth fund — has sparked outrage among tennis fans.
Last year, the Saudis engaged in discussions with the ATP Tour regarding potential collaborative investments in the sport, with the support of the PIF. The PIF had also expressed its interest in hosting the 2023 Next Gen Finals in Jeddah, an opportunity they successfully secured. Additionally, rumors have also been circulating about the Kingdom’s aspiration to host the WTA Finals in their country.
Tennis journalist Jon Wertheim recently took to social media and claimed that Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the PIF, is on the verge of acquiring the ATP ranking system for five years. He also stated that this development is expected to be officially launched during the 2024 Indian Wells Open.
“Here’s some news: PIF/Saudi Sovereign Wealth fund is about to buy @atptour ranking system (godpseed, Pepperstone) for five years. Watch for an announcement to launch at @bnpparisbasopen ….you have to imagine the @wta is next (with finals tie-in?)” Wertheim had posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Fans were extremely displeased upon learning the news, and they took to social media to voice their discontent. One fan expressed concerns about the growing influence of Saudi Arabia in the sport, going as far as to say that they would “feel dirty” watching tennis and that it would taint their enjoyment of the sport.
They also stated that if the Saudi influence were to continue, they would ultimately be compelled to cease watching tennis altogether.
“I’m starting to get the feeling that watching tennis is gonna make me feel dirty. And I don’t wanna feel dirty when I watch tennis. I guess I’m not gonna watch tennis anymore,” a fan posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Another fan stated that both the controversy surrounding Alexander Zverev’s domestic abuse allegations and Saudi Arabia’s growing influence on tennis are undermining the integrity of the sport.
“Between this and Zverev, tennis is creating ethical and moral problems that are weakening the product/sport. I’ll track the results, but am taking a break from watching matches,” the fan posted.
Here are a few more reactions from tennis fans:
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador has criticized Martina Navratilova & Chris Evert for opposing WTA Finals’ Saudi move
Tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have been staunch opponents of the WTA Finals potentially moving to Saudi Arabia. In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, the former World No. 1s have stated that they believe that such a relocation would undermine the core values upon which the WTA was established — empowering women, fairness, and equality.
“The WTA’s values sit in stark contrast to those of the proposed host. Not only is this a country where women are not seen as equal,” Navratilova and Evert wrote. “A country which criminalizes the LGBTQ community to the point of possible death sentences. A country whose long-term record on human rights and basic freedoms has been a matter of international concern for decades. Staging the WTA final there would represent not progress, but significant regression.”
The comments made by Navratilova and Evert received significant criticism from Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States. The Princess asserted that their biased opinions should not impede a nation’s eagerness to embrace tennis and actively contribute to its growth and progress.
“Sports should not be used as a weapon to advance personal bias or agendas or punish a society that is eager to embrace tennis and help celebrate and grow the sport,” she said in a recent statement.