At Wimbledon Players Warm To The Controversial Prospect Of Playing In Saudi Arabia - UBITENNIS
Connect with us


At Wimbledon Players Warm To The Controversial Prospect Of Playing In Saudi Arabia



A ball going over the net during the match between Andy Murray (GBR) and Milos Raonic (CAN) in the Gentlemen’s Singles final on Centre Court. The Championships 2016 at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 13 Sunday 10/07/2016. AELTC/Bob Martin

Andy Murray admits he may have to stage a U-turn on his pledge not to play in Saudi Arabia as the sport appears to be heading to the country in the future. 

Over the past couple of weeks, it has been confirmed that both the ATP and WTA have already held discussions with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF). A sovereign wealth fund worth billions that has already heavily invested in football, golf and other sports. ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi said he has conducted ‘positive’ talks with the group. Meanwhile, the head of the WTA, Steve Simon, visited the country earlier this year and is claiming that bringing tennis to the region might help improve life for women in the country.

Meanwhile, Billie Jean King told reporters on Friday that she supported such talks because ‘change can’t happen unless you engage.’ Not only is King a tennis icon, but she is also one of the first openly gay athletes in the sport which prompts more scrutiny of her remarks. Same-sex relations are not codified under the law in Saudi Arabia but they are strictly forbidden under sharia law which is what they use to draw their legal framework. A member of the Saudi Tennis Federation told me that bringing a same-sex partner to the country was fine as long as there were no mentions or signs of a relationship. Effectively saying that same-sex couples must be in the closet. 

“If you came with your boyfriend and you didn’t show that to the public, it’s not a problem. Our problem is that we don’t accept anyone forcing their ideology or culture in public. It’s against our culture.” An STF member told me. 

Earlier this year, Murray reiterated that he would not play in the country due to concerns over its human rights record. In the past, he declined an invitation to play an exhibition event there. However, should a Tour event be staged there he now admits that he may play. 

“In the past when we were asked to go and play there, we were asked to go and play exhibition tournaments. If they become major tournaments on the tour, it becomes a slightly different question,” Murray told reporters during his pre-Wimbledon press conference. 
“It’s a difficult one based on how the tour and the rankings and everything work, how important they are to get into other events and stuff. When you start missing them, you get penalized for that.’
“It’s something I would have to think about. Unfortunately, it’s the way that a lot of sports seem to be going now.”

Saudi Arabia has made improvements to their human rights record in recent years with women allowed into sports stadiums in 2017. It appears that they are heading in the same direction as the UAE who have grown more pro-Western in recent years. However, human rights organizations still have concerns. This was also the case with Qatar who staged the FIFA World Cup last year. 

Although it is not just the human rights aspect, it is the influence of the PIF. In golf, they funded the LIV Tour which divided the sport before a shock merger was announced a few weeks ago. It is this move that is making some very wary about their possible involvement in tennis. 

“I think personally it was just a question of time when they were to start some kind of negotiations or conversations in tennis to try to enter tennis,” 23-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic commented. 
“We as an individual sport on a global level are probably closest to golf in terms of how we see sports. I think from that example we can probably learn a lot, some positives, some negatives, and try to structure a deal if it’s going in that direction in a proper way that is going to protect the integrity and tradition and history of this sport, but still be able to grow it in such way that it will be appropriate.”

In a bid to ease reservations, Simon says he has received assurances that it would be fine for women to play sleeveless in the country and he has no safety concerns about lesbian players playing there. Although he added that the LGBT topic is a ‘sensitive issue over there.’ 

Saudi Arabia currently has no players with an official ranking. It wasn’t until this year that the country entered a women’s team into the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time, which was in the junior competition. Nevertheless, it appears that it is only a matter of time before they become a heavyweight in the sport. 

“I’ll be ready to play wherever the WTA decides we’re going to play. I’m still kind of waiting for all the information.” WTA No.1 Iga Swiatek commented. 

Both the WTA and ATP have said that no agreements have been formally made yet with the PIF. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas downs Sinner; now aims for Third Title in Monte Carlo

Stylish Greek completes comeback win and re-enters the top ten.



(@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

After winning two in a row in 2021-2022, Stefanos Tsitsipas is now in reach of a third title at the prestigious Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, after beating World number two Jannik Sinner in three gruelling sets.

The 25-year-old had to battle hard and come from a break down in the third to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and now plays Casper Ruud in tomorrow’s final. The Greek has had an indifferent start to the year with a 11-6 win-loss record, but today was his first top three victory since the 2022 Cincinatti Masters – where he beat Daniil Medvedev – and ensures a return back into the top ten of the men’s rankings.

Tsitsipas recognised how hard he had to fight and revealed after the match just how satisfied he was of his performance:

“It was tennis at its highest level that I have been able to play. Jannik was an extremely difficult opponent and it can be seen throughout the year so far. He has been very consistent and I could see that throughout today with his game. He is one of the toughest opponents I have faced so far and to find ways when there weren’t that many, I am proud of that. He gave me a very difficult game and the way I overcame it is true excellence.”

Sinner double faulted at 30-40 to gift the break early with the score at one game all. From there, Tsistipas rallied with poise and confidence in a brilliant opening set lasting 44 minutes including a stunning backhand down-the-line winner to open the game when serving at 4-3. He took the first set 6-4 after a tiring 18-shot rally – where both players hit all angles of the court – before Sinner hit a forehand wide.

However, 22-year-old Sinner struck back immediately on his first breakpoint at the start of the second set when he won a close exchange at the net and then took a 3-0 lead.  He later survived a breakback point when 4-2 up and crucially held on for 5-2. He faced more pressure when serving for the set at 5-3 and was taken to deuce but levelled the match at one-set-all on his second set point to give the crowd exactly what they were asking f

Sinner was now in full flow hitting powerfully from the baseline and once again broke early at the start of the final set to take a 3-1 lead. But with the match now entering the third hour he began to tire physically and called for the trainer during the changeover with the score at 4-3.  When the match resumed, he lost the next three games and the Greek had completed a remarkable turnaround, handing his opponent just his second defeat of the season in two hours and forty minutes.

“It helps a lot knowing I have a win like this under my belt. Having a win like this and getting to the levels of tennis again brings a lot of satisfaction to me,” Tsitsipas said. “When there is a lot of work put in each day, these are the type of matches you are aiming for.”

Sinner’s only loss prior to today was against Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells semi-finals. He has been the stand out player this year after already winning titles in Rotterdam, the Miami Open, and his maiden Grand Slam in Australia. Despite having won 25 matches overall though, he now trails Tsitsipas 3-6 in their head-to-head rivalry.

Continue Reading


Casper Ruud Reveals Shock After Knocking Out Novak Djokovic In Monte-Carlo

Casper Ruud is into his second career Masters 1000 final after beating Novak Djokovic for the first time.



(@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Casper Ruud is into his second Masters 1000 final of his career after recording his best ever win by beating Novak Djokovic 6-4 1-6 6-4.

The Norwegian defeated the world number one for the first time in his career as he overcame a mini-comeback from Djokovic to seal his place in the Monte-Carlo final.

Having lost his five previous meetings to Djokovic, Ruud played some fearless tennis under pressure as the eighth seed broke to close out a career-best win.

Speaking after the win Ruud admitted he was in a state of shock and was pleased with the victory, “I am super happy,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“This is a day I will remember for a long time. Beating a World No. 1 is something I have never done and beating Novak is something I have never done. I am very, very happy. I am a little bit in a state of shock right now.”

After achieving the seemingly improbable, Ruud will now look to win his first ever ATP title that’s above a Masters 1000 event when he takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Monte-Carlo final.

That’s a prospect Ruud is looking forward to as he prepares for one final challenge, “There is always one more match in tennis,” the Norwegian explained.

“Tomorrow is going to be a special day, playing a final here in Monte-Carlo. It is a great result but I have been chasing a big title for a few years now and tomorrow I will have another shot at it. I am going to give it my all. Stef is playing well. He is a great player on clay and on other surfaces as well, but I guess clay is maybe where he has had the most success and especially this tournament.

“So it is going to be another tough task, but I am up for it.”

The final will take place at 14:00 BST.

Continue Reading


Rafael Nadal Set For Opening Round Test Against Cobolli In Barcelona

Rafael Nadal will look to make his ATP tour return in Barcelona this week.



(@nadalprop_ - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal is set for his return to tennis in Barcelona as he has been drawn against Flavio Cobolli in the opening round.

Nadal has been struggling with injury after being injured again in Brisbane this year.

The tournament in Brisbane was his first tournament back for a year as he suffered a hip injury at the Australian Open last year.

Now Nadal aims to return to competitive action in Barcelona as he has been drawn against Flavio Cobolli in the opening round.

Speaking earlier in the week Nadal was hopeful of a return to the tour in Barcelona, “Excited to be here for a few days before the start of the tournament,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“I’m here to see how it goes… can’t wait to try and play. I’ll let you know. Important to say that I don’t want to confirm I’ll be playing, but I hope so. We’ll see.”

Should Nadal play and win his opening round match then the Spaniard will play fourth seed Alex De Minaur in the second round.

The former world number one has won the title on 12 different occasions but hasn’t won the title since 2021.

Elsewhere in the draw defending champion Carlos Alcaraz will begin against Luca Van Assche or Zhizhen Zhang with the Spaniard projected to meet Borna Coric in the third round.

Alcaraz suffered an injury in Monte-Carlo and will be beginning his clay court campaign in Barcelona.

Also in action in Barcelona are Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud.

Main draw action will begin on Monday.

Continue Reading