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ATP : Saudi Arabia To Hold First Next Gen Finals



ATP : Saudi Arabia To Hold First Next Gen Finals

Tennis will hold a professional event in Saudi Arabia for the first time after a five-year deal was agreed for Jeddah to host the Next Gen ATP Finals.

The season-ender for the best men under 21 has featured world number one Carlos Alcaraz and top-10 players Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas in recent years.

Saudi Arabia has invested huge amounts of money into football, golf, Formula 1 and boxing in recent years.

But the nation has long been criticised for its poor human rights record.

Women’s rights campaigners have been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, despite some reform under crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, such as an end to the ban on women driving.

The Saudi state has also been criticised for its criminalisation of homos@exuality, the restriction of free speech and the use of the death penalty, with campaigners calling Saudi’s human rights record “atrocious”.

In a statement announcing the deal on Thursday, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said “exploring new markets is central to growing the game”, adding: “Bringing the Next Gen ATP Finals to Jeddah is our chance to inspire new fans, in a region with a vast young population, and unite audiences around tennis.”

Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray has said previously he would not compete there and had turned down offers of up to £1.5m to play exhibition events in the Gulf state in recent years.

However, in July he said he had not ruled out playing in Saudi Arabia if ATP Tour events – with rankings points – are held there.

Spanish world number one Alcaraz, 20, previously said he had “no doubts” he would compete in Saudi Arabia at some point and added the country has the power to hold plenty of tournaments.

Host cities from multiple regions were considered in the bid process before Jeddah was selected. This will be the first official professional tennis event to take place in Saudi Arabia, which has hosted several lucrative exhibition matches already.

The Next Gen Finals, which have often trialled new rules and innovations for the game, had been held in Milan since the first edition in 2017. The indoor hard-court event will now move to Jeddah in November and will offer a record $2m (£1.6m) in prize money.

Arij Mutabagani, president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, said her organisation was “extremely proud” to be hosting the event and that “the Next Gen ATP Finals embodies the philosophy of our Federation, which is to inspire young talent to reach the sport’s highest levels”.

Saudi Arabia has also reportedly approached the women’s tour about hosting an event, which could potentially be the prestigious end-of-season finals.

The WTA Tour “can’t walk away from” the Saudi question, but there are still “tons of issues” to be resolved, chief executive Steve Simon has said.

Jeddah is also the host of Saudi Arabia’s Formula 1 race, which first ran in 2021, while the country’s Public Investment Fund purchased Premier League side Newcastle United in the same year.

The PIF also merged with the PGA Tour earlier this year, and took control of four Saudi Pro League football clubs – Al-Ahli, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr – earlier this summer as the country’s lavish spending on household name players ramped up.

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