Saudi Arabia to host WTA Finals for next three years with record prize money

Riyadh will host the event for the top eight singles players and top eight doubles teams

By Web Desk
April 04, 2024
Aryna Sabalenka poses with a trophy after winning her exhibition match against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur. Reuters 

Saudi Arabia will host the next three editions of the WTA Finals, the season-ending showpiece event of the women's tennis tour.

The women's professional tennis tour on Thursday announced a deal that will see prize money for this November's tournament raised to $15.25m (£12m), a 70-per-cent increase from 2023.

The nation's capital Riyadh will host the event for the top eight singles players and top eight doubles teams from November 2-9, along with the 2025 and 2026 tournaments.

The deal is the latest in a recent wave of investment by Saudi Arabia in tennis, with WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon declaring it an "exciting new opportunity" and a "positive step for the long-term growth of women's tennis as a global and inclusive sport."

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur last month backed the move, telling reporters at Indian Wells: "I think I'm the first player who would be supportive of going to Saudi.

"The country is evolving. I know that other people have a different opinion, which is normal, but I've been there a couple of times and I've seen how amazing people are, how women are getting more and more rights.

"As a female tennis player, I feel it's time to go there, it's time to give the opportunity to women who dream of being tennis players."

Arij Mutabagani, president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, said that "everyone will be made to feel extremely welcome" at the Finals, while Simon told the Associated Press: "We're going into this eyes wide open that the investment in sport by Saudi certainly provokes strong views from people.

"We've met with Chris and Martina and listened to their concerns and we have shared their concerns through our stakeholders as well, without prejudice. Our focus is on how we develop women's tennis for the benefit of everybody involved in the game ... we are truly a global tour, a global business. We participate in many countries that have different cultures and values systems across the board."

Saudi Arabia's Private Investment Fund (PIF) formed the LIV Golf tour and put money into Premier League side Newcastle, and the kingdom's role in tennis has been rising.

The ATP Tour moved its Next Gen Finals for leading 21-and-under players to Jeddah in November; the PIF is the title sponsor for the men's rankings; 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal recently became an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation; he will join 24-time major champ Novak Djokovic and rising stars Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner at an exhibition event in Riyadh in October.

There have been discussions about placing a top-tier Masters 1000 tournament in Saudi Arabia, too, part of a possible larger restructuring involving the WTA, ATP and the country.