Saudi Arabia Eyes Elite Tournaments, Prompting Concerns in Tennis
Expressing doubts about the potential acquisition of high-profile tennis tournaments, the Miami Open and Madrid Open, by Saudi Arabia, tennis icon John McEnroe voiced his concerns about the influence of money in shaping the future of the sport. During a conference call before the Australian Open, McEnroe acknowledged his disagreement with the idea, stating that while it wouldn’t surprise him, he disagreed with it.
Reports indicate that Saudi Arabia is in initial discussions to acquire both tournaments, classified as elite-level 1000 events by the ATP and WTA, from IMG. The Athletic reported that similar tournaments have historically been sold for several hundred million dollars.
McEnroe raised doubts about Saudi Arabia potentially launching an alternative golf-style tour down the line, stating, “Personally, I disagree with it completely, with the golf and the tennis.” He questioned the idea of hosting prestigious events like the WTA Finals in a country with concerns about its treatment of women.
John McEnroe has seen the reports that Saudi Arabia might expand its influence in the tennis world by buying a couple of high-profile tournaments — the Miami Open and …https://t.co/FmqMR1HMfh pic.twitter.com/sobY9KmMNF
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Despite his reservations, McEnroe also highlighted the paradox where sports figures are expected to set moral standards, but governments and businesses routinely engage with Saudi Arabia. He emphasized that the issue extends beyond tennis and golf, calling it a “total joke.”
The tennis icon expressed skepticism, stating, “I’d be surprised if the Saudis don’t buy those tournaments actually.”
Saudi Arabia’s expanding influence in tennis includes hosting the ATP’s Next Gen Finals from 2023-27 and expressing interest in hosting the WTA Tour Finals. The kingdom also organized exhibitions featuring top players like Novak Djokovic.
ATP Tour chair Andrea Gaudenzi confirmed positive discussions with Saudi Arabia, stating, “It’s our duty to talk to everyone basically, and that’s what we’re doing.”
While McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez share concerns, they noted that tennis pioneer Billie Jean King is open to Saudi involvement, hoping to inspire young girls and women in the Middle East through tennis.