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Saudi Arabia Nearing Deal to Host WTA Finals, with Possibility of More Tennis Events

Barring another last-minute pivot, the women’s professional tennis tour is preparing to announce that the season-ending WTA Tour Finals will take place in Saudi Arabia, marking the latest step in the country’s huge investment in elite sport.

WTA Tour chief executive Steve Simon has been holding talks with Saudi officials for the past year and if a deal is agreed, the 2024 finals will take place there at the end of the season, according to several of the sport’s top officials. The WTA has been here before, though, as recently as last summer, when it was close to a deal with Saudi Arabia but pivoted at the last minute amid public pressure.

In a statement on Thursday, a WTA spokesperson said the process is ongoing, with the intention of a final decision and announcement later this month.

One top tennis official, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak for the WTA, called the potential deal with Saudi Arabia “the worst kept secret in the sport.” The WTA is said to have reached the point where it is fully confident in Saudi Arabia’s ability to produce a top-level event but remains concerned about the ancillary criticism that will come with taking its signature event to a country that does not grant women equal rights.

The deal for the WTA Finals would represent the latest step in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a major destination for international sports. It could also signal the beginning of the country landing more big tennis events.

Saudi Arabia has been seeking to acquire a top tournament since at least the middle of 2023. While it remains unclear whether that will happen, several top tennis events are beginning the process of searching for new host sites. Leading tennis officials expect Saudi Arabia to be a significant player in the process given its hunger for sports events and the need among the top organizations in tennis for new sources of investment.

The International Tennis Federation, which organizes the Davis Cup international team competition for men and the Billie Jean King Cup for women, will soon begin searching for new sites for the final rounds of those events for the coming years.

In soccer, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) purchased the Premier League team Newcastle United in 2021 and some of the biggest names in soccer have moved to clubs in the Saudi Pro League, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. Saudi Arabia is also set to host the 2034 World Cup.

In golf, Saudi Arabia pledged to spend $2billion on a new competition, LIV Golf — again attracting some of the sport’s biggest names to take part — and the country has become the home of elite boxing in recent years. Formula 1 has held races in the city of Jeddah since 2021 and there has also been considerable Saudi investment in Formula E.

Saudi Arabia hosted the ATP Tour’s Next Gen Finals — which pits the best young male players against one another — in November and exhibition matches between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur the following month.

As the tennis world gathered in Melbourne for the Australian Open two weeks ago, Rafael Nadal announced a deal to become an ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s tennis federation.

For months, there have been discussions between the WTA and the International Tennis Federation about the need to bring the tour-ending finals and the Billie Jean King Cup Finals — which is the World Cup of women’s tennis that happens the following week — closer together and perhaps even to the same location.

The ATP …

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