Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button
NewsScoresRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastShopPro GearPickleballGear Sale

Popular This Week

Net Notes - A Tennis Now Blog

Net Posts

Industry Insider - A Tennis Now Blog

Industry Insider

Second Serve - A Tennis Now Blog

Second Serve



By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, April 28, 2024
Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur is proud of the WTA Finals move to Saudi Arabia.

The two-time Wimbledon finalist has a simple message for critics of the move: See Saudi for yourself before drawing conclusions.

More: WTA Finals Heading to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

"I am always honestly biased in this position here and the decision they took. I'm very happy to be there," Jabeur told the media in Madrid when asked her reaction to the move. "As an Arab woman, I'm very proud some things are moving there in Saudi.

"Obviously people could have different opinion. Where it bothers me is that when some people, they don't know what's really happening there, and super ignorant about what's really happening in Saudi.

"So like Princess Reema said, You should come to Saudi, be there, and judge yourself."

The 2024 season-ending WTA Finals will be staged in Riyadh November 2-9, featuring the Top 8 singles players and doubles teams in the Race to the WTA Finals.

The agreement with the Saudi Tennis Federation will offer record prize money of $15.25 million at the WTA Finals in 2024 with further increases in 2025 and 2026. That's an important infusion of money given the financial loss the Tour incurred after pulling out of China in the aftermath of the Peng Shuai sexual assault allegations against a high-ranking Chinese government official.

The 2022 Madrid champion Jabeur, Hall of Famer Billie Jean King and Jessica Pegula have been among the prominent supporters of the WTA moving its crown jewel tournament to Saudi Arabia.

Tennis taking Saudi dollars doesn't make sense to Daria Kasatkina, Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert, who have vocally opposed tennis' growing partnership with Saudi Arabia. Critics have called the move "crazy" given the Kingdom's treatment of women is antithetical of the Tour's mission statemento f empowering women.

Kasatkina said money talks, but she doesn't agree with the message tennis will be sending taking Saudi dollars given the Kingdom's record on human rights violations. Kasatkina, who is gay, said Saudi Arabia's record on women's rights and LGBT rights makes it a "tough condition" for tennis, particularly women's tennis, to accept the nation's financial backing.

Same sex activity for both men and women is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

"Many issues concerning this country. Honestly, tough to talk about," Kasatkina said at the 2023 Wimbledon. "It's easier for the men because they feel pretty good there, let's say. We don't feel the same way.

"So it's going to be, let's say, money talks in our world right now. For me, I don't think that everything is about the money. Unfortunately not everything is dependent just on us, and particularly me, for example. So it's in the hands of the bigger people, unfortunately."

Hall of Famer Navratilova said she will not work as a commentator at the WTA Finals because she does not support playing the event in Saudi Arabia.

Critics say it's naive to suggest a tennis tournament can impact a culture repressive to women.

Jabeur said the move represents an opportunity for players and for the sport to help shape Saudi culture in a positive way.

The 29-year-old Jabeur says greater understanding can come from this partnership and asks critics to visit Saudi Arabia and give the WTA Finals' new home a chance before casting judgment.

Jabeur says tennis players talk about inclusiveness and the WTA has acted on it by spreading the game's global reach to the Middle East and Arab women.

"I think if you're being in another country and not coming there and see how Saudi is being played, for me, even though I'm not from Saudi, but I would extend the invitation for everyone to come and see for themself," Jabeur said. "If they really don't like it, they would share their honest opinion.

"We are not telling them to say you really like it or anything. Obviously I wish to see better comments. For me, it always has been about chances, and going there not just to play tennis matches but to give the opportunity especially for younger women to see their role models from before and to believe that they can achieve anything."

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty