REPORT: ATP, Saudi Arabia's PIF In Talks Over Staging New Masters Event - UBITENNIS
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REPORT: ATP, Saudi Arabia’s PIF In Talks Over Staging New Masters Event

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The 2022 Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia (image via https://twitter.com/DiriyahCup)

Talks are ongoing concerning the feasibility of Saudi Arabia staging a Masters 1000 event at the start of 2025, according to a report by The Times

Those involved in the negotiations are looking into the prospect of the Middle Eastern country holding a premier men’s event before the Australian Open in a move that would have huge implications for the calendar. Currently, the season starts in Australia and New Zealand with the United Cup as well as a series of lower-level tournaments. Should Saudi Arabia be given a Masters 1000 event, the world’s top men’s players would instead begin their year there. 

Such a move would undoubtedly draw criticism from Australia whose events would significantly suffer. The United Cup, which is overseen by Tennis Australia, would likely come to an end in the absence of top men’s players taking part.

The ATP has declined to comment on the matter but it is understood that meetings will be held during the ATP Finals next week to look into more details of the proposal. It is unclear if a possible Saudi Masters event would be an additional event or replace an existing one. The Athletic has previously reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has approached IMG about the possibility of buying either the Miami Masters or Madrid Masters events. However, both Miami and Madrid are combined tournaments. 

Sources have told Ubitennis that the possibility of the PIF making a bid for the Paris Masters is unlikely due to the time of year. This is due to the close proximity between the Next Gen Final and WTA Finals. Whilst the Next Gen Finals is taking place in Saudi Arabia from this year onwards, there has been no confirmation about the future of the WTA Finals. Although, it is understood that officials in the country are confident that the event will be moved there next year as part of a multi-year deal. Furthermore, a senior WTA official reportedly visited the country last month to inspect possible venues. This is yet to be confirmed by the governing body of women’s tennis but the information is from those involved in the ongoing negotiations. 

Ubitennis recently asked the WTA if there have been any recent meetings with members of the Saudi Tennis Federation but they didn’t comment during an email exchange. 

Saudi Arabia is becoming a formidable force in the world of sports. According to research conducted by Play the Game, they have identified at least 312 Saudi sponsorship deals across 21 sports, as well as multi-sport events. The organization is run by the Danish Institute for Sport Studies, which is funded by the country’s government. They are also set to host the 2034 World Cup after being named as the only candidate to stage the event.

Critics have accused the Saudi regime of using sports to improve its reputation which has been affected by human rights violations, a term commonly known as sportswashing. Areas of concern raised by international organizations include women’s rights, the criminalization of homosexuality, the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the suppression of free speech. 

On the other hand, the Saudis argue that work has been done to improve its human rights record and significant progress has been made. As for the allegations of sportswashing, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Fox News earlier this year that he doesn’t care about this. 

“If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we’ll continue doing sportswashing,” Bin Salman said.
“I don’t care [about the term]. I have 1% growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5%.
“Call it what you want – we are going to get that 1.5%.”

Later this year a series of exhibition matches will be held in Saudi Arabia following the Next Gen finals. In Ridayh Aryna Sabalenka is set to play Ons Jabeur on December 26th. The following day Novak Djokovic has signed up to play Carlos Alcaraz. 

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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