Riyadh Welcomes Womens Tennis Association: Gears Up to Host the Finals for the Next Three Years

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Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh is set to host the Womens Tennis Association (WTA) finals for the next three years. This comes after a decision that had been followed for months, further marking the nation’s foray into the sport. The 2024 WTA Tournament will take place between 2-9 November and the prize money for the winning team has been increased to $15.25 million, a 70% raise from 2023. There will be further planned increases for the tournaments of 2025 and 2026. 

Speculations regarding the selection of the city were pending for several months. The ability to fund a grand WTA event, having a shared vision to attain equal prize money for women, and a plan to expand the growth of WTA Finals over time are three main criteria for which the venue is selected. The eligibility of the Saudi Tennis Federation was assessed by WTA when it saw that STF fulfilled all these criteria, following which an agreement was finally reached. The global tennis authority says that this association with STF will  “also support broader investment in the future development and growth of women’s tennis, including the WTA’s plans to grow the global fanbase for women’s tennis through increased investment in marketing, digital, and fan engagement,”

Hints regarding the shift of host city have been on air since last August after the men’s ATP Tour said that the Next Gen Finals would be hosted in Jeddah from 2023 to 2027. The country has developed in recent years as it invested funds in sports such as golf, football, and Formula One auto racing. Critics have stated that Saudi Arabia has used its Public Investment Fund to “sportswash” its human rights record. However, the nation has posted a denial against the allegations of human rights violations posed on it saying that it protects its national security through its laws.

History’s highest-ranked Arab tennis player from Tunisia Ons Jabeur expressed her excitement on learning that the WTA finals are going to be organized in Riyadh. She told The National “It’s great that the WTA has decided to go and play the Finals there. As an Arab woman, I am proud to be part of this. I hope I could qualify and play there; it would definitely be special.” She further added, “It’s time to make the change and I hope as women athletes we could do that and inspire more women in the region and around the world.” Jabeur qualified for WTA finals in both 2022 and 2023 and currently enjoys a career-high ranking by WTA as the world number 2 which she achieved on June 27, 2022.

Many have praised Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the final in Riyadh, stating that this is the country’s step at promoting women’s tennis, while legends of WTA like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert criticized that the Tour has negotiated with the STF; demanding the authority to not give the award of hosting of finals to Saudi.  

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