Saudi Arabia named as Next Gen ATP Finals host

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Saudi Arabia will host the men’s tennis tour’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah through 2027 under an agreement announced Thursday.

The end-of-season tournament for the ATP’s top 21-and-under players will be held this year at the King Abdullah Sports City on an indoor hard court from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

“The ATP Tour is truly global and exploring new markets is central to growing the game. 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,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.

The event’s prize money will rise to $2 million, a jump of more than 40% from the $1.4 million handed out in 2022, when the last of five editions was held in Milan.

It is the first time an official ATP event will be held in Saudi Arabia and is part of a recent trend involving various sports linking with the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund that claims assets of about $700 billion.

The PGA Tour, European Tour and Saudi-funded LIV Golf announced a collaboration last month. Formula One started holding a race in Saudi Arabia in 2021, the same year the kingdom bought English soccer club Newcastle United. Saudi soccer teams have been signing big-name players, including Cristiano Ronaldo.

WTA chairman Steve Simon visited the kingdom with tennis players in February, and he acknowledged shortly before Wimbledon that his tour will “continue to have conversations” with the Saudis.

The WTA also told Reuters that no decision has been made on holding events, including the season-ending WTA Finals, in the country.

“As with all decisions regarding the future of the WTA, we are working closely with players and focused on continuing to build a strong future for women’s tennis,” the WTA said.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has enacted wide-ranging social reforms, including granting women the right to drive and largely dismantling male guardianship laws that had allowed husbands and male relatives to control many aspects of women’s lives. But same-sex relations are punishable by death or flogging, although prosecutions are rare, all forms of LGBTQ+ advocacy are banned, and the government has severely cracked down on any form of political dissent, arresting women’s rights activists and other critics and sentencing them to long prison terms and travel bans, sometimes on the basis of a few tweets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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