Australian Open Chief Open To Idea Of Saudi Investment As Kyrgios Lends His Backing - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Chief Open To Idea Of Saudi Investment As Kyrgios Lends His Backing

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The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is keeping an eye on developments regarding the possibility of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund expanding into tennis. 

Craig Tiley told reporters on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe any future investment will affect the sport in a similar way it has done with golf. The PIF has invested heavily in sports over the past few years, including the £300M takeover of football team Newcastle United. In golf, they funded the LIV Tour which split the sport before a shock merger between the Tour’s was announced a few weeks ago. 

Now there is speculation that Saudi Arabia’s next target is tennis. ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi has confirmed to the Financial Times that he had held ‘positive’ talks about the matter but didn’t elaborate any further. It is also understood that the country is the favourite to host the Next Gen Finals in the future which could potentially be expanded into a mixed event. 

“I think what’s different is this is more an investment in the current structure of the game and not an investment in an alternative option,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Tiley as saying. “But, like everything in the world, there are lots of changes always going on, so you’ve got to watch what’s going on, and we’ve been staying close to it, but ultimately, that’s a decision for the men’s and the women’s tour.
“One thing that’s really important to note is that the four grand slams run independently … it’s most important that we take care of what we need to take care of, and that’s our five weeks of tennis in January.”

Some organizations have accused Saudi Arabia of sportswashing which is where a country invests in sports to improve its reputation that has been tarnished by wrongdoing. The country has been criticized in the past for its human rights record. 

There are also questions about how LGBT sports fans would be welcomed in the country. Saudi Arabia draws its legal framework from Sharia law which prohibits homosexuality. On the country’s Tourist website, it says that ‘everyone is welcome to Saudi Arabia and visitors are not asked to disclose personal details.’ In an exchange with a member of the country’s tennis federation on social media, I asked what would happen if I or anybody else visited with a same-sex partner. 

“If you came with your boyfriend and didn’t show that to the public it’s not a problem,” Adel Alqarni said in response.
“Our problem is that we don’t accept anyone forcing his ideology or culture in public. It’s against our culture, that’s it.”

Social issues aside, Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios has spoken out in favour of a potential partnership between the ATP and PIF occurring. On Twitter, he retweeted a report of the Guadenzi’s talks with the caption ‘Finally they see the value. We are going to get paid what we deserve to get paid. Sign me up.” World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz has also recently said he expects to be playing tournaments in Saudi Arabia in the future.

In response to Kyrgios’ suggestion that players are not getting paid enough, Tiley said he would always welcome more prize money being awarded in the sport. 

“We’ve done it as a grand slam – we’ve done the best we can to compensate the players. In fact, this year there was over $100 million in prize money on offer for a period of four weeks, for both men and women,” he said.
“Our view is that if men get paid a certain amount, the women need to be paid the same amount, and vice versa, so we’ve always held that position and always will hold that position.
“The more players, not just the top players, who can make a good living, the healthier it is for the sport.”

According to the BBC, the current value of the PIF stands at £514bn and is controlled by Saudi Prime Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. 

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Andrey Rublev comes back from one set down to beat Zhang Zhizhen in Dubai

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Number 2 seed Andrey Rublev came back from one set down to beat Zhang Zhizhen 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 in 1 hour and 51 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

Rublev hit 18 aces and saved both break points he faced to improve to 2-0 in in his head-to-to-head series against Zhang Zhizhen. 

The first set went on serve with no breaks of serve en route to the tie-break. Rublev opened up a 4-1 lead, but Zhang Zhizhen won six consecutive points to win the tie-break 7-4. 

Rublev broke twice in the third and seventh games to win the  second set 6-2. 

Rublev broke in the third game of the decider. Zhang Zhizhen earned two break-back points in the fourth game but Rublev saved them. Rublev held on his next service games and sealed the win on his first match point. 

“I was so happy because the conditions were super tough. He played amazing in the first set. He was not missing at all on serve, serving 220 and it was so tough to return and do something on return. I am happy that I was able to be there and as soon as I had a chance in second set I was able to take it”, said Rublev. 

Hubert Hurkacz saved all six break points to battle past Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Struff saved the three break points he faced. 

Hurkacz earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-2 lead in the tie-break. Struff pulled back one serve for 3-5 but Hurkacz sealed the first set on his third set point. Hurkacz saved three break points in the 12th game. Struff earned two mini-breaks to win the second tie-break 7-4. Both players saved break points in the first two games of the third set. Struff earned two match points at 6-4 in the tie-break, but Hurkacz won four consecutive points to win the decisive tie-break 8-6. 

Botic Van de Zandschulp edged Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 to clinch his first win against a top 20 opponent. Van de Zandschulp set up a second round match against Sebastian Korda, who cruised past Pavel Kotov 6-0 6-2. 

Van de Zandschulp earned the first break to take a 2-1 lead. Mannarino saved a break point at 1-3. Mannarino broke back to draw level to 3-3. Both players traded breaks in the 11th and 12th games. Van de Zandschulp earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-1 lead in the tie-break. Mannarino pulled one mini-break back, but Van de Zandschulp eanred another mini-break to win the tie-break 7-3. The second went on serve until the 12th game, when Van de Zandschulp earned the decisive break. 

This year’s Montpellier champion Alexander Bublik came back from one set down to beat Tomas Machac 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5). Bublik set up a second round match against either Tallon Griekspoor or Abdullah Shelbayh. 

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Karen Khachanov wins his sixth career title in Doha

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Karen Khachanov beat Czech Next Gen Jakub Mesnik 7-6 (14-12) 6-4 to clinch his the sixth title of his career and the first of his career. Khachanov did not drop a set during this week. 

Khachanov saved four set points in the first set before hitting a forehand return to seal the first set on his fourth set point. 

Khachanov broke serve in the opening game of the second set. The Russian player did not face a break point in the whole match and won 83% of his first serve points. 

Khachanov claimed his first ATP title since Zhuhai last September. 

“Every title is a special one. Every time, you want to win. We play around 22 tournaments per season and at the end of the day, you compete every week. For sure here in Doha here in Doha it is one of the nicest trophies”, said Khachanov. 

Mesnik made a major breakthrough this week beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and three former Doha champions Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils en route to his first tour level final. Mesnik is projected to a career-high number 87 in the ATP Ranking. He is currently in the lead in the ATP Race to Jeddah. 

“For sure this week will be unforgettable for me. From the beginning, I did not even get to the tournament on my own ranking. I had to use the Next Gen spot, so I tried to enjoy every moment on the court. I did not expect that I will go through to the final. I am really happy with my performance”, said Mesnik. 

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Jasmine Paolini wins the first WTA 1000 title of her career in Dubai

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Jasmine Paolini came back from one set down to beat qualifier Anna kalinskaya 4-6 7-5 7-5 in 2 hours and 13 minutes in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

Paolini rallied from one break down in each of the second and third sets to clinch he the second WTA Tour title of her career and her first trophy at WTA 1000 level. Paolini has become the third Italian player to win a WTA 1000 title following in the footsteps of Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells in 2014 and Camila Giorgi in Montreal 2021. 

Kalinskaya earned an early break in the first game of the opening set. Paolini broke back in the fifth and sixth games. 

Kalinskaya broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead with a passing winner and closed out the first set at 15. 

Kalinskaya broke Paolini with a return winner in the opening game to build up a 6-4 3-1 lead. Paolini slammed a return winner to break back for 3-3. Paolini forced and error on set point with a crosscourt backhand to break serve in the 12th game. 

The third set started with three consecutive breaks. Kalinskaya broke for the second time in the third game and held at 15 with an ace in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead.  Paolini broke back in the 10th game  to draw level to 5-5 when Kalinskaya was serving for the match. 

Paolini earned three championships point at 6-5 after Kalinskaya made a double fault. 

Paolini drew a long error from Kalinskaya on the first match point. 

Paolini wo 60% of her first serve points.

Paolini beat Kalinskaya in Portoroz in 2021 en route to winning the first WTA title of her career. The Italian player played in three more finals in Cluj Napoca, Palermo and Monastir, but she lost all of them. Kalinskaya beat Paolini in the Round of 16 at last January’s Australian Open. 

Paolini has become the second Italian player to win the Dubai title after Sara Erraini claimed this trophy in 2016. The Italian player is projected to move into the top 15 in the WTA Ranking. 

“I am really happy how I managed to come back. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know. I am just so happy. I am proud of all the work I made this year. It’s not easy to bring this work in the match sometimes. I am playing good tennis. I played well at the end of the last season I started the season well with the second week at the Australian Open. Now I try to be more relaxed on court, to try to think more what I have to do, to be more present every point. I think it works. It’s not going to be every week like this, but I am going to do my best”, said Paolini during the post match press conference. 

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