EXCLUSIVE: The WTA Finals and Saudi Arabia In Talks For Future Deal - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Latest news

EXCLUSIVE: The WTA Finals and Saudi Arabia In Talks For Future Deal

The WTA are working on trying to bring the WTA Finals to Saudi Arabia in future years, but where will it be this year?

Published

on

(@TheFirstServeAU - Twitter)

Saudi Arabia’s speculated takeover of the WTA Finals will not happen in 2023 but a multi-year deal is in the pipework.

Sources speaking on the condition of anonymity have confirmed to UbiTennis that the Middle Eastern nation will not be hosting the end-of-season event in November despite previously presenting an offer to the WTA.

It is understood that their focus is now solely on hosting the ATP Next Gen Finals for the first time. The men’s event features the eight highest-ranked players under the age of 21 and starts straight after the Davis Cup finals. Although it is expected to take place in December from 2024 onwards.

Furthermore, the head of the Saudi Tennis Federation, Arij Mutabagani, said in a recent interview with The National that the possibility of including women in the Next Gen Finals could occur as early as next year. 

As for the WTA Finals, a source familiar with the ongoing situation has claimed that there is a ‘99 percent’ chance that Saudi will become the home of the event for three consecutive seasons (2024-2026). It is unclear if this will be officially announced this year or next. Such a deal is expected to be worth millions.

In recent months Saudi Arabia and their Private Investment Fund have elevated their interest in tennis. However, the country has faced numerous allegations of using sports to improve its reputation which has been affected by wrongdoing. A term which is better known as sportswashing.

Jessica Pegula, who is a member of the WTA Players Council, understands the complex topic of playing in Saudi Arabia but believes there are more positives than negatives, “We’d obviously have to see there be a lot of pros overweighing the cons to feel comfortable going there, whether that’s seeing them as a group, maybe have to donate money to women’s sports or women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, to see some sort of change or action going towards helping those causes in their country,” said Pegula.  

“I think that would be something really important that, if we did end up going there, we would want to see. I think it’s just going to have to be the right arrangement and we’re going to have to know if we go there, okay, well, we want to be making a change, and you need to help us do that. If that was the case, I think unfortunately a lot of places don’t pay women a lot of money, and it’s unfortunate that a lot of women’s sports, like we don’t have the luxury to say no to some things.”

The WTA Finals are the biggest women’s event outside of the Grand Slams in terms of both prize money and ranking points on offer. In recent years a deal was signed with China to hold the event in Shanghai before officials suspended operations in the region over concerns that ex-world No.1 Peng Shuai was being censored by officials after accusing a former government official of sexual assault.

In 2021 it was held in Mexico before moving to America last year.  There is still yet to be an official announcement over the location of this year’s event. The Czech Republic and America have all been previously mentioned as contenders but an official announcement will be made after the US Open.

ATP

World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

Published

on

Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

Continue Reading

ATP

Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

Published

on

image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

Continue Reading

Latest news

“It’s Purely Psychological” – Maria Sakkari Berates ‘Unacceptable’ French Open Defeat

Published

on

Maria Sakkari - Roma 2023 (foto Francesca Micheli, Ubitennis)

Greece’s Maria Sakkari said she felt ‘intense anxiety’ before her first round match at the French Open after crashing out of the draw on Monday.  

The sixth seed suffered a shock 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, loss to Varvara Gracheva who is currently ranked 88th in the world. Sakkari produced a costly 39 unforced errors and dropped serve five times in her latest match. It is the first time she has lost her opening match at a tournament since February.  

Heading into Paris, the 28-year-old had produced encouraging results on the Tour after reaching the semi-finals in Charleston before making fourth round appearances at WTA 1000 events in Madrid and Rome. 

 “It’s the first time I don’t know what to say…” Sakkari told SDNA
“I’ve been very well these days. It was very sudden for me too, I started feeling intense anxiety before the match. I would really like to give the right answers, but all I have to say is that I have been very well these days. No matter what set I played, no matter what practice I did, everyone could see that I was fine. It’s definitely psychological, purely. It’s nothing else.” 

Since appearing in two Grand Slam semi-finals in 2021, Sakkari has struggled to make an impact at the major events. Her defeat to Gracheva makes it the fourth time she has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam since the start of last year. Overall, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of her nine most recent appearances at these tournaments. 

 “I won the first set and I kept getting nervous. My pulse was very high throughout the match, especially until the middle of the third set,” she said of her latest performance.
“I was feeling a panic, it’s not like I won the first set and relaxed. Maybe if I had broken the first game of the second set things would have been different. But what can we say now?’  
“It’s purely psychological, I’m not hiding. I will not look for excuses. I put too much pressure on myself, not to lose another game in the first or second round of a Grand Slam. Everyone around me tries to tell me that it happened in New York too, but then I recovered. However, it is not the same. I’ve recovered and I’m playing well in the other tournaments, but it’s proven that I’m not playing well in the Grand Slams. I feel it’s one thing, another thing.” 

Whilst praising her opponent, Sakkari describes her defeat as ‘unacceptable’ and hopes it will serve as a wake-up call for her.  

She now heads to the grass season with a win-loss record of 19-10 so far this year.

Continue Reading

Trending